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Probe into mystery illness ongoing

Investigations continued yesterday into the mystery illness that has caused the deaths of at least 60 children in Cambodia since April, but answers were not yet apparent, health officials said.

A joint statement issued by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health last night said the majority of cases had appeared in the southern part of the country and that neighbouring countries had been officially informed as the the “cause and source of the disease” were sought for “appropriate control”.

WHO public-health specialist Dr Nima Asgari said the UN agency was providing support for the Ministry of Health to investigate the cases.

“The investigations will try to identify any linkages in time, place and person between the cases and also if there has been exposure to similar factors and how that can be linked . . . to a possible causative agent.”

Dr Denis Laurent, from Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, which first raised the alarm about the deadly illness, said the hospital was independently pursuing its own investigation.

“We are working very hard, but there is no update. We are still waiting for results, hopefully tomorrow,” Laurent said.

Communicable disease health officials from the Ministry of Health could not be contacted yesterday, and rapid- response hotline officials declined to comment.

Siem Reap province health department director Kros Sarath said an alert from the ministry’s Rapid Response Team had been circulated on July 1.

“We have spread the information to all 76 commune health centres in the province,” he said. “We don’t have any reports yet of severe cases of the disease in our province.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Bridget Di Certo at
Chhay Channyda at



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