Mysterious illness in Vietnam

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Hundreds of people suffer from mysterious illnesses

In Vietnam, hundreds of people have been affected by a mysterious illness since April 2011. As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam in a joint press release, 216 people in the Ba To district have so far suffered from the puzzling so-called "Inflammatory Palmoplantar Hyperkeratosis (IPPH) Syndrome", twelve people have already died as a result of the disease.

Inflammatory palmoplantar (hands and feet) hyperkeratosis (cornification of the skin) is caused by chronic poisoning, according to information from the WHO and the health authorities of Vietnam. This leads to symptoms such as inflammation and injuries to the hands, feet and liver. The disease is therefore not transferable from person to person, but since the cause remains unclear, the WHO estimates that further illnesses can be expected in the future. To prevent this, the WHO and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam have recommended some measures to combat and prevent IPPH syndrome in the current press release.

Mold in rice as a trigger for the mysterious diseases? The Ministry of Health of Vietnam has carried out several on-site examinations in the Ba To District (Quang Ngai Province) to investigate the causes of the puzzling diseases. “Epidemiology, clinical medicine, health, nutrition, toxicology and environmental factors were taken into account,” according to the joint communication from the WHO and the Vietnamese Ministry of Health. So far, no clear cause for the diseases has been found, but the results of the extensive investigations provided some important information. So many people with IPPH suffered from malnutrition. Some ate rice from the previous harvest, with aflatoxins (mold poisons) discovered in several rice samples. Almost all suffered from liver inflammation. According to the WHO, these indications suggest that the chronic chronic poisoning of the IPPH was caused by mold in the rice, but no clear evidence has so far been provided. It was therefore important "in addition to the ongoing investigation, to implement comprehensive intervention measures to reduce mortality and the development of new cases, and to improve the general health of people in Ba to District," said the Vietnamese Minister of Health, Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.

Intervention against the spread of the enigmatic disease In order to reduce the mortality rate of IPPH syndrome, the Ministry of Health has issued treatment guidelines to doctors, offered training and sent consultants from central hospitals to the region. Preventive measures such as the provision of rice and advice on proper storage were also taken. Together with the WHO, recommendations were developed for the population as well as for the responsible municipalities in the Ba To district. Accordingly, residents should currently only consume rice provided by the local health authorities, use the vitamins and nutritional supplements distributed by the authorities and ensure good environmental hygiene and personal hygiene. At the first signs of IPPH, urgently go to the nearest health facility. For their part, the municipalities are called upon to carry out and monitor the current intervention measures, should continue to provide food supplements and rice for the residents of Ba To and promote improved (environmental) hygiene conditions.

The responsible WHO representative in Vietnam, Dr. Takeshi Kasai said that WHO supports all intervention by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to deal with cases of IPPH syndrome in Quang Ngai province. Kasai was convinced that "the Ministry of Health is on the right track," but stressed that "identifying the cause may take longer than planned" and is likely "difficult to prove". (fp)

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Vietnam: Deaths from mysterious skin disease

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