Vietnam mysterious skin disease returns, spreads

TN News

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Authorities in the central province of Quang Ngai said Saturday a fatal skin disease is making a comeback after a hiatus of several months and is spreading.

They said Pham Van Xi, 4, of Ba Vinh commune in Ba To District has symptoms of the condition which had earlier been found only in neighboring Ba Dien Commune, killing 24 people between April last year and July this year.

Xi's is the first infection to be reported since.

He was initially admitted to the Quang Ngai General Hospital with red blisters, liver-cell necrosis, and increased levels of liver enzyme.

External symptoms include thickened skin and blisters on the hands and feet in the beginning, and death occurs due to multiple organ failure starting with the liver.

Most patients have liver enzyme levels shooting up to four-20 times the normal level.

The boy has since been sent to the Ho Chi Minh City Children's Hospital No.2.

Local officials said the disease, which peaked in March, April, and May, had infected 240 people in Ba Dien, many of them belonging to the same family.

The health minister and foreign experts including those from the World Health Organization have visited the commune, but the disease remains a puzzle.

Vietnamese officials have ruled out dioxin sprayed by the US during the war as the cause.

But a high level of arsenic, 100 times the normal level, was found in the hair of a nine-year-old boy who died in May.

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Studies in 2011 found arsenic in groundwater in many places in northern and central Vietnam.

Doctors have said more patients need to be tested to draw any conclusion.

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