July 11, 2012

"Mystery Illness" Plagues Cambodia

Kantha Bopha children's hospital in Phnom Penh. Photo: AFP/Khem Sovannara

About a week ago, news of "mystery illness" killing more than 60 children, 0-7 years old (since April) broke out. Naturally, I was sad and worried. No, make that scared and paranoid.

I have an almost 6 year old kid and I am concerned about his health and safety, like all parents would be.

The World Health Organization have sent a team here in Cambodia. It is news all over CNN and I read from twitter that there's a heightened alert for airline passengers arriving Manila from Cambodia. In short, it's not something to dismiss easily.

Authorities said that they have identified the common cause of death among children being the severe Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (Enterovirus 71). Symptoms of HFMD include fever, painful sores in the mouth and a rash with blisters on hands, feet and buttock.

But I heard there are still some questions left whether it is the real cause of death.

While officials argue, I am busy disinfecting my household. We have avoided the crowded places we frequent to every weekend like the Sorya and Sovanna Mall. We have made conscious effort to avoid the Famous Smoke Shop and restaurants that have smoking areas. We wash hands more than ever and while EJ still attends the summer class, I make sure that when he goes home he either takes a bath right away or washes his hands thoroughly.

There is still no known vaccine against the disease so the only thing to do is to practice good hygiene. I am actually particular about our hygiene already before this news broke out but now, I am little over the top.

They say, it is better to be safe than sorry.

With that said, I hope they will be able to identify once and for all the cause of death of those children to avoid hysteria among the residents of Phnom Penh.

And I am hoping and praying there will be no more deaths.