Health Officials Working To Identify Respiratory Illness Responsible For Deaths Of More Than 60 Cambodian Children

WHO and Cambodian health officials are investigating “the source of an unidentified illness” — characterized by high fevers, severe respiratory problems, “and in some cases neurological symptoms” — that has killed more than 60 children in the country since April, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports (Hensley, 7/5). “The undiagnosed syndrome has been reported in 67 hospital patients since April, 66 of whom have died, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman, in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh today,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “It’s unlikely influenza is the cause, she said” (Gale, 7/6). To date, only one of the children admitted to hospital has survived the unknown disease, the Wall Street Journal notes.

“Investigators remain perplexed by the latest disease, though, which has garnered broad international attention in part because many world leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are scheduled to gather in Cambodia later this month for a regional security conference,” the newspaper writes (Hookway, 7/5). According to CNN, “Countries surrounding Cambodia were informed of [the disease] earlier this week, through the International Health Regulations event information system, which provides public health communications” (Park, 7/6).