A medical expert from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arrived in Vietnam on June 3 to help discover the cause of a bizarre skin syndrome that has killed 23 people in Quang Ngai Province.
Fatal skin disease remains a mystery
The US expert will help Vietnamese health workers classify samples taken from the disease’s victims and then send a number of typical samples to CDC’s laboratories for testing.
The syndrome, which was first recorded in April 2011 and has affected about 240 people in the central province’s Ba To District, is characterized by thickened skin (keratosis) over the palms and soles, with stiffness in the limbs and ulcers on victims' hands and feet that look like burns.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Health has taken about 1,940 samples of soil, water, food, hair, fingernails and skin scabs for testing but it has not been able to identify the strange disease.
Health workers have found more than 200 species of insects, including mites, ticks and fleas, in disease-hit areas, but no evidence has been found to link them with the disease.
The disease has so far spread to five communes in Ba To district, including Ba Dien, Ba Ngac, Ba Xa, Ba Vinh and Ba To, of which Ba Dien is leading with the most cases.
The latest death from the complicated syndrome occurred on May 30 when 34-year-old woman, Pham Thi Trieu, in Reu Hamlet, Ba Dien Commune, died at the provincial General Hospital.
Two days before, a 9-year-old boy, Pham Van T, also died from the disease in the same hamlet.