Phnom Penh (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/ANN) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Friday that most of the 54 children who died from an undiagnosed illness in Cambodia since April suffered from a severe form of hand, foot and mouth disease.
It also found that a "significant number" of cases were treated with steroids which worsen the condition of patients with enterovirus 71 (EV-71), a virus that causes the disease.
Institut Pasteur tested samples of 31 patients for a number of pathogens and most tested positive for EV-71, a statement said. A small proportion of samples also tested positive for Haemophilus influenzae type B and Streptococcus suis.
"It was not possible to test all the patients as some of them died before appropriate samples could be taken," it said.
The investigation included a review of patient records from Kantha Bhopa and other hospitals, laboratory tests, follow-ups with affected families and evaluations of data.
Of the 78 cases identified, 62 were those initially reported by Kantha Bopha Hospital. The investigation focused on 61 cases that fitted specific criteria of which 54 had died.
"The investigation revealed that most of the cases were under 3 years of age, from 14 different provinces, with some suffering from chronic conditions.
"A significant number of cases had been treated with steroids at some point during their illness," the statement said.
In response, the Ministry of Health has ordered health centres to report all patients with hand, foot and mouth disease. The ministry and WHO have meanwhile begun enhanced surveillance for neuro-respiratory syndrome which was observed among patients with the severe form of the disease.
"It is expected that the enhanced surveillance will identify occasional new cases of the severe form of the disease in the coming months," the statement said.
The WHO said the ministry was also developing guidelines and training courses for staff to manage patients with both mild and severe forms of the disease.
It also said that a campaign to raise awareness on preventing and identifying the disease and taking care of infected children was already underway.