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Culprit found in Cambodia child deaths - Enterovirus 71 is linked to hand, foot, and mouth disease

EV-71 has affected over 40,000 in Vietnam this year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

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This photo taken on July 5, 2012 shows a Cambodian doctor (L) checking a child (C) at Kantha Bopha children's hospital in Phnom Penh. (KHEM SOVANNARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Institut Pasteur virologists in Phnom Penh have found the mysterious ailment that's killed 64 Cambodian children may be Enterovirus Type 71.

More from GlobalPost: 64 Cambodian Children Dead from Mystery Disease - WHO Scrambles to Find Cause

The virus was found in 15 of 24 patients sampled since the middle of June, Phillipe Buchy, head of the Institut Pasteur, told Bloomberg Sunday. Calling the virus a "perfect" explanation for the deaths on the phone to Bloomberg Sunday, Buchy said the emphasis now was on containing the illness. 

Enterovirus 71, otherwise known as EVV71, is not a full explanation for the respiratory problems Cambodian children face, Dr Beat Richner, head of the financially strapped Kantha Bopha hospital group in Cambodia, told CNN. 

"All these children have encephalitis [inflammation of the brain] and in the later hours of their life they develop a severe pneumonia with a destruction of the alveoli in the lungs. That is the reason they die," Richner told Al-Jazeera Sunday.

Poor medical treatment at smaller hospitals may have caused some of the deaths, according to Al-Jazeera, as the only two known survivors were treated at Richner's facility.

According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, EV71 is associated with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, and often manifests as large outbreaks primarily affecting children. It is relatively common in Asia, but is not usually seen in Cambodia. The virus is not to be confused with Foot and Mouth disease, which primarily affects cloven-hoofed animals.

EV71 is spread to others via direct contact with the bodily fluids of the ill, according to CHP Hong Kong although the strain that is manifesting in Cambodia does not appear to be contagious. There is no treatment or vaccine available at this time for EV71, both CHP Hong Kong and Center for Disease Control sources say. 

Vietnam, Cambodia's neighbor, has seen a large outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease this year, according to the Center for Disease Control, with over 40,000 cases recorded as of April 29. 

A WHO official cautioned the disease is by no means defeated in a Sunday CNN report, noting the EV71 finding "does not mean we have solved the problem of the undiagnosed cases. A lot more analysis is needed, and further laboratory investigations need to be done."

The CDC has not yet issued a travel advisory for Cambodia. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/cambodia/120708/culprit-found-cambodia-child-deaths-enterovirus-7