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Arsenic may be killer in mystery disease outbreak

Update: June, 08/2012 - 10:48

 

A patient with a mysterious skin disease in central Quang Ngai Province's Ba To District has his hands examined by a doctor. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Long
DA NANG — Health experts believe arsenic may be responsible for the outbreak of a mysterious skin disease in the central region that can lead to death.

Doctors, experts from the Ministry of Health and hospitals in the region have been puzzled by the unidentified skin disease in Quang Ngai's Ba To District.

At a workshop in Da Nang City yesterday they described the ailment as resembling dermatitis of the palms and soles of the feet.

The disease, first reported in April, has affected a total of 215 people so far, mainly in Ba Dien village. Twenty-three later died.

Director of Ha Noi-based Central Hospital of Dermatology, Tran Hau Khang, told the workshop that identifying the cause was a difficult job.

"We are still checking on the symptoms through medical check-ups, including those on the livers of patients," he said.

Dr Nguyen Huy Tien from HCM City-based Paediatrics Hospital No 1 said biopsies on nine-year-old Pham Van Thach, who died on May 27, revealed a chemical could be to blame.

"My check-ups and tests on the patient indicate that arsenic could be involved," he said.

"The patient had dermatitis on his palms hands and feet, while his liver and kidney appear to be poisoned with chemicals," he said.

He said poisoned food, water or pesticides could be responsible, adding that most patients were diagnosed with breathing difficulties and traumas on the liver and kidney, elevated liver enzymes as well as skin peeling off the palms of the hands and feet.

Deputy head of the Department of Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health Nguyen Trong Khoa said doctors and heath experts from 14 hospitals had joined in a programme to lower the number of deaths.

"We'll set up a series of diagnosis and consultation systems for the disease in the community. The department will also support Quang Ngai hospital and the health centre in Ba To district," Khoa said.

"We have also asked the Quang Ngai Provincial heath department to send patients to Ha Noi for treatment and the diagnosis of international heath experts," he said.

Most patients of the ailment are from Ba To district's Ba Dien village and four villages known as Ba Xa, Ba To, Ba Vinh and Ba Ngac. — VNS

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