World Bulletin / News Desk
Cambodia closed all its kindergartens and primary schools on Wednesday to prevent the spread of a deadly virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease and has killed at least 55 children since April, a senior government official said.
Sixty-one cases had been identified as the Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which has affected children between the ages of three months and 11 years.
The outbreak has raised concern in other parts of the region, such as Thailand and the Philippines. Children have tested positive in both countries for strains of hand, foot and mouth disease, although no deaths have been reported.
In Cambodia, 55 children are known to have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Most were younger than three years old and died within 24 hours of being admitted to hospital.
"After receiving report from some provinces about the rapid spread of hand, foot and mouth disease in schools, we don't have to wait two more weeks," Mak Van, Education Ministry Secretary of State, told Reuters.
He said the closures would be in force for 10 weeks. Schools had been due to close for holidays at the end of August.
The WHO, which has been helping Cambodia investigate the deaths, said on Wednesday it was concerned the closures could cause alarm. The authorities, it said, were able to contain the spread.
"We did not recommend the closing of nurseries and primary schools because that would create unnecessary public panic," WHO representative Sonny Krishnan said in an email.
"The HFMD caused by EV-71 is under control by the Ministry of Health and ...(it has) the capacity to contain it."
He said the authorities were monitoring the situation and no new cases had been confirmed.
Neighbouring Thailand has closed 18 schools in Bangkok to try to prevent a spread of various strains of hand, foot and mouth disease, of which there have been at least 12,500 cases nationwide since the start of the year.
The Ministry of Public Health has drafted a surveillance plan to try to prevent the EV-71 strain from taking a hold in Thailand.
In the Philippines, health officials said two children had tested positive for the enterovirus, but not necessarily the deadly EV-71. The two came from different regions and neither had travelled recently outside the country.
"We are still awaiting the (lab) results," said Eric Tayag of the Department of Health. "They are not in the same neighbourhood. They are less than eight and are doing all right now."
He said health officials had wanted to "alert the public that hand, foot and mouth doesn't have to come from other countries. We have them, except that we don't have the form of the disease. Most likely it's not EV-71, but the laboratories should tell us that better."
Chinese authorities on Sunday said hand, foot and mouth disease had killed 17 people and infected nearly 35,000 in central Hunan province since June, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Serbia's ambassador to Ankara says 5 government ministers will accompany Serbian president
He acted quickly -- just a day after decades of Castro rule ended and long time party loyalist Miguel Diaz-Canel assumed power as president.
Multimillion-dollar lawsuit raises issue of hacking of Democratic National Committee’s servers
Syrian regime would be 'ill-advised' to ignore message sent by last week’s allied missile strike, says US Defense Secretary
At least 39 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli interventions since border rallies began March 30
Thursday’s vote make Diaz-Canel first person outside Castro family to rule country in almost 60 years
Syrian regime had no clear picture of what was happening to them, says U.S. general, referring to U.S.-led joint attack
Hamas, Islamic Jihad announced plans earlier to boycott scheduled meeting of PLO’s National Council
Canadian provinces at war over future delivery of oil to Pacific countries
Terrorists killed during operations in Saladin governorate
Decision follows Ecuador’s withdrawal as mediator in talks between Bogota and rebel group
The economic damage of trade war will be smaller than its perceived risk, experts say
Top court says in 5-4 decision federal statute is 'unconstitutionally vague'
'Both chlorine and sarin gas were used in the attack,' says State Department spokesperson
Move ‘is just one step in a journey that requires dedication,’ says coffee chain’s CEO
Turkish Air Force targets Zap region in northern Iraq, according to military