A 17-year-old boy in the central province of Quang Ngai has died after allegedly being afflicted with a mysterious skin condition that has plagued the province since 2011, Tuoi Tre reported on Tuesday.
Dinh Van Thap from Son Ha District died on March 9, the first death since the disease resurfaced in Quang Ngai last month after virtually disappearing for several months.
The condition is thought to be caused by either poisonous heavy metals in the soil, moldy rice, or other toxins or pollution. It apparently kills by causing organ failure.
According to the provincial Department of Health, Thap was admitted to Quang Ngai General Hospital on suspicion that he had contracted dermatitis and horny layer thickening syndrome on his feet and hands on February 28.
Despite treatment efforts, his liver soon failed and he died.
Thap was one of 17 cases of the disease reported in Ba To and Son Ha districts since the ailment reappeared, Tuoi Tre reported.
The syndrome begins with blisters on the hands and feet and the loss of appetite, and can turn fatal due to organ failure, starting with the liver.
Since it first appeared, the disease had infected 240 people, of whom 25 have died. Most of the cases occurred in Ba Dien Commune of Ba To District.
In other related news, experts from the World Health Organization have teamed up with representatives from the Ministry of Health and other agencies to start studying the disease since Wednesday, the newspaper quoted the ministry as saying.
Earlier tests concluded that the disease was caused by chronic poisoning, but the toxin responsible for it has yet to be identified, and an effective treatment method was not established, either.
In an interview with the online newspaper VnExpress last year, Dr. Babatunde Olowokure from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Vietnam said the disease is not similar to any disease or illness that has ever been known in the world.
He warned that it will therefore take more time to find the cause than expected, and that in some cases the cause may not be identifiable.
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