Skin condition claims 2 more lives in central Vietnam

TN News

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Two more people have been killed by a mysterious skin condition in central Vietnam, raising the death toll to 21.

Ba To District residents Pham Van Nhoc, 55, and Pham Thi Ngot, 60, died Monday after intensive treatment in Quang Ngai Province.

The condition, which starts with blisters on hands and feet, becomes lethal as the functions of multiple organs decline.

Families of the victims said they were not told the actual cause of the deaths, Nguoi Lao Dong reported.

Nhoc's wife and children are also affected by the condition, whose cause is still a mystery after more than 20 of visits from heath and military officials this year.

As of May 8, statistics from the province health department listed 200 people affected by the condition since April last year.

All the victims so far have come from the H're ethnic minority community. The H're cook fungus-covered rice deliberately as a traditional food.

The Health Ministry's prime suspect is thus toxins in the rice.

Doctor Tran Hau Khang, director of the Vietnam National Dermatology Hospital, said liver enzyme levels in the skin condition patients have been found at levels 4-20 times the normal.

The Quang Ngai Province administration has provided rice to the district to replace the fungus-covered supplies.

Health minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said she would seek support from the World Health Organization when all local efforts fail.

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