I am working in SE Asia for the next ten days conducting pandemic flu exercises with the culprit being H5N1.  Currently I am in Thailand.  It has been most interesting and a bit disturbing to read of the deaths of young children in Cambodia and the uncertainty as to the cause.  It is with some relief that the cause has been determined.

Health officials are now reporting that a deadly form of a common childhood illness has been linked to many of the mysterious child deaths that have occurred in Cambodia. Lab tests have confirmed that a virulent strain of hand, foot and mouth disease known as EV-71 is to blame for some of the 59 cases reviewed since April, including 52 deaths, according to a joint statement from the World Health Organization and the Cambodian Health Ministry. The numbers were lowered from the initial report of 62 cases. EV-71 is a virus that can result in paralysis, brain swelling and death. Most of the Cambodian cases involved children younger than 3.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, blister-like sores in the mouth (herpangina), and a skin rash.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). This group of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses.

  • Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States, but other coxsackieviruses have been associated with the illness.
  • Enterovirus 71 has also been associated with hand, foot, and mouth disease and outbreaks of this disease.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), a disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related. Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease.

There is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. A person can lower their risk of being infected by

  • Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet. Visit CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! for more information.
  • Disinfecting dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys. First wash the items with soap and water; then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of water).
  • Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/10/world/asia/cambodia-child-deaths-linked-to-virus.html

http://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/index.html