Mysterious skin disease kills two more in Vietnam

QUANG NGAI - The skin disease of unknown origins in the central province of Quang Ngai has killed two more patients, bringing the total number of fatal cases to 21, the Ministry of Health has said.

The victims are Pham Thi Ngot, 61, and Pham Van Nhot, 53, who died after treatment at Ba To District's Health Care Centre and Da Nang City's Hospital early this week.

Both of the victims are residents of Ba To District's Ba Dien Commune where the disease has affected 173 people. The total number of those affected by the disease in the district stands at 183.

Yesterday, the Heath Ministry, for the third time, sent a delegation to Ba To District to train local healthcare staff on the syndromes of the disease recently named foot and palm dermatitis.

Participating at the training session were experts in dermatology, the environment, tropical diseases, labour hygiene, haematology and more than 100 healthcare workers.

The participants learned the methods to diagnose the clinical signs and precisely identify the disease. They were also introduced to methodology to carry out field experiments; for instance how to set up questionnaires, how to collect and process data and how to take samples for study.

After the training, the ministry delegation is scheduled to conduct studies on the disease in Ba Dien Commune for five days. They will carry out research on clinical syndromes, micro-organisms, the living environment and epidemiology to identify the cause of the skin disease.

Late last month, blood tests revealed the presence of the rickettsia bacterium in 14 out of 26 patients. Though a potential candidate for the cause of the disease, the ministry has rejected it as an option, according to Viet Nam News Agency correspondent in Quang Ngai.