Belgian experts study mystery skin disease in central Vietnam

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Two Belgian doctors Wednesday visited a central Vietnamese province plagued by a mysterious skin condition that has caused the deaths of at least 23 people so far, hoping to crack the mystery.

The two, one an epidemiologist and the other a liver expert, took rice samples from Ba Dien Commune in Quang Ngai Province's Ba To District to check for harmful fungi.

Arriving with doctors from Ho Chi Minh City's Children's Hospital No.2, they also checked water sources, living conditions, and medicines victims have been using.

Since April last year at least 239 people have contracted the disease, which causes thickened skin and blisters on hands and feet, and leads to multiple organ failures, starting with the liver. Most patients see liver enzyme levels shooting up to many times normal levels.

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The visiting experts observed that the outbreak peaks during the monsoon from November to April. Only two cases have been reported since early June.

The Ministry of Health has also sought the help of the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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