09 July 2012

Cambodian Children Dying from Unknown Disease

Cambodian Children
Something tragic is happening right now in Cambodia. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently ramping up its efforts to figuring out the mystery disease that has, so far, claimed the lives of at least 61 children in the country. That’s 61 children’s death too many.

Officials said just one child was believed to have survived the illness and the high fatality rate has spread concern among Cambodians, 30 percent of whom live below the poverty line according to the World Bank.

Paediatrician Beat Richner, the founder of Kantha Bopha children's hospitals, which see around 85 percent of Cambodia's severely ill youngsters who make it to treatment, was the first to raise the alert over the illness.

The Swiss doctor, who told Cambodian health officials about the illness last month, gave a higher toll than the WHO, saying 64 children had died from the disease since mid-April, while two more had recovered.

The sad part is that the victims are usually aged seven and under with most being between two and three years old. The most recent death happened last 7 July 2012.

"All these children have encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and in the later hours of their life they develop a severe pneumonia with a destruction of the alveoli in the lungs. That is the reason they die," Richner said.

The latest update said that doctors have discovered at least one disease plaguing the children, though there could be more. CNN reports the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia discovered 15 of 24 patients tested came back positive for Enterovirus Type 71, a strain of hand, foot and mouth disease that can cause severe neurological problems for children. Adults' more developed immune systems are usually able to fight it off, but a child's immune system is still vulnerable enough for the disease.

But the EV71 diagnosis still doesn't answer for the respiratory problems bothering the children. A WHO official warned that more analysis is needed.

For those who have the means to help Cambodian children, please try to do that now. Everyone needs to be proactive to prevent further death among these children. There is no sense in enjoying the fruits of your wealth if we cannot do something to help others, especially children.