Mystery illness claims dozens of Cambodian children
July 6, 2012 -- Updated 0053 GMT (0853 HKT)
- WHO probing the cause of an illness that has killed dozens of children since April
- It is reported that 61 of 62 children admitted to hospital have died from the disease
- The disease has struck children under 7 years old, most of them died within 24 hours
- Symptoms include respiratory illnesses, fever and generalized neurological abnormalities
Hong Kong (CNN) -- The World Health Organization is helping the Cambodian Ministry of Health investigate the cause of a mysterious illness that has killed dozens of children in the country since April.
A joint statement from the WHO and the ministry, released Wednesday, said 61 of 62 children admitted to hospital had died from the disease. The majority of the reported cases came from southern and central Cambodia.
"[The Ministry of Health] and WHO are currently investigating the cases," Mam Bunheng, the Cambodian minister of health, said in the statement, "possible causes of the disease are being considered, but definite identification of the cause and source may take some time."
Initial reports from the Cambodian government indicate that the unknown illness struck children under seven years old.
"The symptoms include a mixture of respiratory illnesses, fever and generalized neurological symptoms, including convulsions in some of the patients," Dr. Nima Asgari, a team leader of the WHO country office in Cambodia, said in an email to CNN.
The children were brought to hospitals in the capital, Phnom Penh, and the northern tourist hub of Siem Reap -- the two biggest cities of Cambodia -- but most of them died within 24 hours upon admission.
"This can be a mixture of a number of known diseases -- virological, bacterial or toxicological -- which have been reported as one syndrome or something new," Asgari added.
"While the labs are excluding the various pathogens, we are providing support to [the Ministry of Health] to make sure that an in-depth analysis of cases is done to identify possible causes or exposures which will give us a better picture. The investigation is ongoing."
So far, there were no signs of contagion or clusters of cases -- patients who had contact with each other and fell sick together -- a telltale warning sign of a highly infectious disease. But Asgari admitted the high mortality rate in such a short time was extremely worrying.
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
Today's five most popular stories