QUANG NGAI - Mouldy rice has been blamed for a new outbreak of a killer skin disease in the central province of Quang Ngai's Ba To district.
The ailment has affected more than 230 people to date, mainly in mountainous Ba To district. Twenty-four have died.
The latest samples of rice tested reveal that it may have been contaminated with an aflatoxin, a type of fungus. Apparently this can create a type of dermatitis that causes skin to peel off people's feet and palms.
The tests were carried out by the HCM City Institute of Hygiene and Public Health on 10 samples of rice from the homes of those infected.
One sample of rice from the family of a patient in Ba Dien Commune was found to be contaminated with 100 times the safe level of the toxin.
Last year, tests conducted by the health ministry showed that 100 per cent of those affected in Ba To and Son Ha District had eaten mouldy rice.
Chief of the provincial health department, Le Huy, said the department had told local health centres to provide regular health check-ups for local people, clean the surrounding environment and raise public awareness.
Since the beginning of the year, the province has reported three new cases of the skin disease.
The strange disease was first discovered in the province in 2011.