Mystery illness kills 61 Cambodian children

The children, mostly aged under five years, suffered encephalitis followed by a severe pneumonia, with the cause as yet unknown, according to the Swiss doctor who initially raised the alarm.

“The x-ray and the CT are showing that the alveoli are destroyed within hours,” Dr Beat Richner, the founder of a chain of children’s hospitals in Cambodia, wrote to the country’s health ministry, according to a news story in the Phnom Penh Post.

The TV news network filmed long queues outside hospitals in the capital as concerned parents brought in their children to be checked.

The report said weeks of laboratory testing had ruled out bird flu, common causes of pneumonia and other likely contagious diseases.

In a statement yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) cited 61 deaths among 62 children and said it was working with the Cambodian Ministry of Health to investigate the outbreak, providing assistance