Foot-and-mouth disease

HANOI – Vietnam has asked international health experts to help investigate a mystery illness that has killed 19 people and sickened 171 others in an impoverished district in central Vietnam, an official said today.
The infection has mostly affected children and young people. It begins with a high fever, loss of appetite and a rash that covers the hands and feet. Patients who are not treated early can develop liver problems and eventually face multi-organ failure, said Mr Le Han Phong, chairman of the People’s Committee in Ba To District in Quang Ngai province.
Nearly 100 people remain hospitalised, including 10 in critical condition. Patients with milder symptoms are being treated at home. The illness responds well to treatment if detected early, but 29 patients have been reinfected, Mr Phong said.
The Ministry of Health sent a team of health officials to the area earlier this month, but they were unable to determine the cause of the illness. The ministry has since asked the World Health Organisation and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help investigate.
A WHO spokesman said the Geneva-based body had not yet received the request from Vietnam.
“We can’t investigate without an official request,” said Mr Tarik Jasarevic.
The ailment was first detected last April, but the number of cases had died down by October. A fresh spate of infections started last month, with 68 cases and eight deaths reported between March 27 and April 5, Mr Phong said.
Most of the patients are from Ba Dien village in Ba To. It is one of the poorest districts in the province and home to many from the Hre ethnic minority. AP

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Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease (Aphtae epizooticae) is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a severe plague for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols, through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators.[1] Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of millions of animals.
Susceptible animals include cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, antelope, deer, and bison. It has also been known to infect hedgehogs, elephants,[1][2] llama, and alpaca may develop mild symptoms, but are resistant to the disease and do not pass it on to others of the same species.[1] In laboratory experiments, mice and rats and chickens have been successfully infected by artificial means, but it is not believed that they would contract the disease under natural conditions.[1] Humans are very rarely affected.
The virus responsible for the disease is a picornavirus, the prototypic member of the genus Aphthovirus. Infection occurs when the virus particle is taken into a cell of the host. The cell is then forced to manufacture thousands of copies of the virus, and eventually bursts, releasing the new particles in the blood. The virus is highly variable,[3] which limits the effectiveness of vaccination.

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