Vietnam has asked international health experts to help investigate a mystery illness that has killed 19 people and sickened 171 others in an impoverished district in the central part of the country, an official said today. The infection has mostly affected children and young people. It begins with a high fever, loss of appetite, and a rash that covers the hands and feet. Patients who are not treated early can develop liver problems and eventually multi-organ failure. The illness responds well to treatment if detected early, but 29 patients have been reinfected.
The ailment was first detected last April, but the number of cases had died down by October. A fresh spate of infections started last month, with 68 cases and eight deaths reported between March 27 and April 5. The Ministry of Health sent a team of health officials to the area earlier this month, but they were unable to determine the cause of the illness. The ministry has since asked the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help investigate. Nearly 100 people remain hospitalized, including 10 in critical condition.