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Killer Skin Disease Baffles Health Authorities in Vietnam

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Published on Apr 20, 2012

An unidentified skin disease which has killed at least eight people in central Vietnam has left doctors baffled over how to diagnose or treat the illness.

The outbreak has affected Ba Dien Commune in Quang Ngai Province in Vietnam and has caused alarm amongst the local population.Residents have undertaken a form of quarantine to try to isolate the outbreak.

"We have to block the entrances here to stop patients from getting out and spreading the disease. Since we don't know the cause of the disease, we will have to rely on our rituals and prayers," local man Pham Van Tray said on Friday (April 20).

People have also been trying to tackle the spread of the disease by washing.

The head of Reu village, at the centre of the outbreak, has been encouraging people to seek professional health care.

"I am trying to tell people that if they get sick, do not stay at home but go and seek treatment at the hospital. They should also keep their houses clean. Any families who lost members to illness or death should be helped by their young people," Pham Van Dang said.

Vietnam's health ministry has sent a team of medical experts to the province to try to determine the condition's cause, but have yet to find any local sources of infection.

The latest victim, a 46-year-old, from Ba Dien Commune, died earlier this week.

According to local health agencies, 164 people have contracted the disease since April 2011, and 68 since the beginning of the year.As many as 63 patients have been treated in the region's Quy Hoa National Leprosy Dermatology Hospital, with symptoms ranging from skin disorders to multi-organ failure, especially those involving the liver.

Symptoms include swelling and itching between the fingers and toes. After four to seven days, patients may experience thick or chapped skin or even hair loss within two weeks.

The disease develops quickly and is difficult to treat.

In a related move, the local health department conducted a two-day examination of over 1,400 local people in Ba Dien Commune, which started a week ago, to diagnose and provide early treatment of the disease and to contain its spread.

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