The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been unable to solve the mystery of the fatal skin disease plaguing the central province of Quang Ngai.
According to a press release issued by WHO and Vietnam's Ministry of Health on Thursday, early this month two experts from WHO and the CDC were invited to help local agencies identify the disease that has affected 216 people and caused 12 deaths in Ba To District since April of last year.
However, the cause of the disease, referred to as inflammatory palmoplantar hyperkeratosis (IPPH) syndrome by WHO, is still unknown.
"We do no know what causes the syndrome, or its source of transmission, identifying the cause may take longer than anticipated or prove elusive," the press release quoted WHO representative for Vietnam, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, as saying.
So far it has been confirmed that the syndrome is characterized by a chronic intoxication that can lead to inflammation and lesions of the hands, feet and liver.
Several field investigations conducted by the health ministry have established that the syndrome may not be infectious in origin and that most patients suffered from inflammation of liver, according to the press release.
Other results included the discovery of Aflatoxins - a fungus that contaminates grains before harvest or during storage in few rice samples, and no presence of elevated levels of heavy metals or agrochemicals taken from human or environmental samples, it said.
The health ministry will continue focusing its efforts in treating current patients and monitoring new cases as they occur. Meanwhile, further investigations will be conducted to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions as well as to identify other risk factors associated with IPPH syndrome, the press release said.