Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New epidemic among children in Cambodia is a mystery, still

The most recent detailed story on the mystery epidemic in Cambodia, so far almost 100% fatal among about 65 children, seems to be by Sara Sidner on CNN, here

The epidemic is distinguished from a well known presence of dengue in Southeast Asia.

The finding of an old enterovirus, EV71, in many of the children is not thought to explain the neurological symptoms and rapid destruction of the lungs.  And SARS and H5N1 or related influenzas are supposedly ruled out.

And the disease does not appear to be transmissible within households.

All of this reminds us of the complexity of epidemics.  An infectious agent might be amplified in some way (blood contact, sexual contact, insects, close household) and not cause disease in most people until some other factor is introduced coincidentally.  An infectious agent might even be “protective” against some environmental factors.  Very mild infections, for example, can actually reduce the expression of severe allergies. The ethical dilemmas follow. 

Update, July 11:

On AC360 on CNN, Sanjau Gupta said that the disease has been found to have a multi-factor cause: EV71, streptococcus, dengue virus, and symptomatic treatment with steroids, which reduce the capacity to fight infections. 

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