MANILA, Philippines - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH) reported today that the disease that struck and killed Cambodian children in the last few months was of the encephalitis type and not the hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) they earlier reported.
The health agencies maintained, however, that the new strain discovered is linked to the Enterovirus-71 (EV-71), which causes different diseases of varying intensities.
EV-71 may also cause HFMD as well as acute respiratory disease, acute flaccid paralysis (polio-like), and the deadly brainstem encephalitis.
Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain.
“Affected Cambodian children generally presented with fever followed by rapid respiratory deterioration and impaired consciousness. Death occurred 24 hours from hospital confinement,” DOH said.
It said that EV-71 infections have already occurred in the Philippines in the past, but are still considered rare.
As such, Health Secretary Ona instructed the Department of Health’s (DOH) National Epidemiology Center to include EV-71 infections as a “notifiable” disease in the country, which means all health providers, especially physicians, are compelled to report individual cases or even outbreaks.
“This is necessary to make sure that the Philippines is free from the highly fatal severe form of EV-71 infections that have claimed the lives of 52 [out of 59 infected] children in Cambodia since April this year,” he said.
He said there are still no travel restrictions to and from Cambodia. All passengers will be subjected to thermal screening, however.
To prevent the spread of EV-71, DOH is urging the proper disposal of baby diapers or human waste, strict personal hygiene and regular hand washing.
The virus is known to be excreted in the feces since it is found in human intestines, DOH said.
It also urged parents and day-care personnel to clean and disinfect toys and teaching tools that are easily shared with other children.
There is no known drug or vaccine yet to combat EV-71 infections.