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Mystery illness grips 13 as doctors baffled

A contagious mystery ailment has led to 13 hospitalisations in Pursat province since Tuesday, when a family of five began suffering vomiting, diarrhoea and fainting, quickly spreading it to others who came into contact with them.

Authorities in Pursat’s Krakor district’s Chhoeu Tom commune have sealed off the house, from where the illness appears to have originated, as 11 of the 13 people, aged 6 to 80, remain in a local hospital, said commune chief Prack Phorn.

Two people recovered and were released from hospital, said Kert Mem, director of the Chhoeu Tom Health Centre.

“First we thought they got food poisoning, but we could not find any poisoning, and it was strange that after their neighbours visited them, they began to suffer the same symptoms,” Mem said. “Their illness did not involve poisoning or cholera – they don’t show any signs – but we still cannot find the source; they seem to have difficulty breathing.”

Officials from the Ministry of Health took blood samples from the patients to determine what is causing the symptoms, Mem said yesterday.

Police initially thought someone may have poisoned the family intentionally, but were left scratching their heads when the illness spread, said Lim Yin, Chheu Tom police chief.

“First, we suspected that there was a thief that sprayed poison into the house where the five people initially got sick,” he said. “But when the neighbours visited them, they also came down with the same symptoms.”

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