Friday, July 6, 2012

67 Bodies, No Autopsies

I'm not awake -- Bianca and Sven came home, thankfully via the Celebrated Famous Historic Underground Passages from our local "downtown" pub district, so that Fred didn't have to do drawbridge-and-dunderhead duty, at around 4:43 AM -- but am sipping on a lovely cup of Italian roast mixed with about a half-teaspoon of espresso, brewed 9 minutes in my 4-minute café presse.  Yes, with a dollop of milk, as it does a body, even this body, good.

One of the first things I read as I scan the "world" news?  This:

Unidentified Illness Kills 61 Children in Cambodia
An unknown illness has sickened 62 children in Cambodia since April, all but 1 of whom has died, according to a global alert from the World Health Organization. 
The illness is characterized by high fever, followed by neurologic and/or respiratory symptoms, then rapid deterioration of respiratory function. Patients died within 24 hours, the New York Times reports.
The illness does not appear to be spreading through person-to-person contact, according to news reports, and there have been no apparent clusters of cases. Pneumonia and avian influenza are unlikely. The WHO and other organizations are investigating.
"Since April"?  Children dying within 24 hours?

Jesus God Lord Holy Guy Almighty, Already.

As I said, it was one of the first reads.  The actual first read was a blog post so stupid I almost cried, descrying the use of the phrase "kill Romney" by the Obama camp -- or not, I was so disgusted by the death of word smithery and what passes for common sense, even common political sense, that my fingertips were stabbing blindly at the keyboard, trying to make it change, I didn't care how, just get this stupid drivel off my screen.  Yes, I am one of the intelligentsia that never thinks to just unplug a misfiring bit of electronics, or to slap a lid on a flaming sauté pan.

Right, so I'm trying to figure whether you throw flour on dying Cambodian children or whether smothering the inferno with a tight lid is more efficacious.

To be fair, I haven't looked around in the "mainstream" ["*ack*-*ack*-*ptooey*" -- Don't worry, it's just Marmy delivering a hair ball] media for coverage of this outbreak.  I found it stuck inside a health summary dodad I get daily, listed right after the helpful and timely, hot-hot-breaking news article that began: "Unintentional ingestion of wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes led to six adults presenting to a Providence, Rhode Island, emergency department over the past year..."

So, gimme a minute here.  A few sips of this excellent but rapidly cooling brew, a quick brush of the Dobster (or he will start tossing things onto the floor from the desk -- not kidding...), and some crackers --  ♪ ♫ I love prednisone in the morning... ♪ ♫ -- and I will peruse what other coverage and info is out there about these poor children.

Well, it appears that most of the information actually was just released.  Again: Jesus God Lord Holy Guy Almighty, Already.  Here is CNN's take on it:

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The World Health Organization is helping the Cambodian Ministry of Health investigate the cause of a mysterious illness that has killed dozens of children in the country since April.
A joint statement from the WHO and the ministry, released Wednesday, said 61 of 62 children admitted to hospital had died from the disease. The majority of the reported cases came from southern and central Cambodia.
"[The Ministry of Health] and WHO are currently investigating the cases," Mam Bunheng, the Cambodian minister of health, said in the statement, "possible causes of the disease are being considered, but definite identification of the cause and source may take some time."
Initial reports from the Cambodian government indicate that the unknown illness struck children under seven years old.
"The symptoms include a mixture of respiratory illnesses, fever and generalized neurological symptoms, including convulsions in some of the patients," Dr. Nima Asgari, a team leader of the WHO country office in Cambodia, said in an email to CNN.
The children were brought to hospitals in the capital, Phnom Penh, and the northern tourist hub of Siem Reap -- the two biggest cities of Cambodia -- but most of them died within 24 hours upon admission.
"This can be a mixture of a number of known diseases -- virological, bacterial or toxicological -- which have been reported as one syndrome or something new," Asgari added.
"While the labs are excluding the various pathogens, we are providing support to [the Ministry of Health] to make sure that an in-depth analysis of cases is done to identify possible causes or exposures which will give us a better picture. The investigation is ongoing."
So far, there were no signs of contagion or clusters of cases -- patients who had contact with each other and fell sick together -- a telltale warning sign of a highly infectious disease. But Asgari admitted the high mortality rate in such a short time was extremely worrying.

Well, given the reporting issues for this region [remember how China just JUMPED all over SARS?]... I will surely believe that there are no clusters, no Patient Zero... ♪ ♫because the Bible tells me so....♪ ♫

Bloomberg's offers the most specific information my quick scan can find:

Unknown Disease Killing Children Across Cambodia, WHO Says
By Jason Gale - Jul 6, 2012 3:26 AM ET

Victims of a disease that’s killed dozens of children in Cambodia were from more than half the country’s provinces, a World Health Organization official said.

The first 57 patients were from 14 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, with most coming from the southeastern provinces of Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu and Prey Veng, said Joy Rivaca Caminade, a technical officer with WHO’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific in Manila. The Ministry of Health was first alerted to the cases by Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh, Caminade said in an e-mail today.

Health officials are searching for the cause of the deaths, which may be the result of a combination of different diseases, according to Caminade. Surveillance in the Southeast Asian nation hasn’t picked up anything of this scale in recent years, she said. So far, there is no evidence of clustering of cases that could indicate that it’s spreading from person to person.

The undiagnosed syndrome has been reported in 67 hospital patients since April, 66 of whom have died, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman, in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh today. It’s unlikely influenza is the cause, she said.

No Autopsies
“No autopsy was done on any of the cases,” said Nima Asgari, the leader of the WHO’s emerging disease surveillance and response team in Cambodia.

Health officials are reviewing hospital records and treatments provided, as well as surveying relatives of patients, to understand the events that occurred from when the children fell ill to their hospitalization. The information is then being matched with laboratory data, he said.

“As you can imagine, this will take time and we are still at the data analysis part,” Asgari said in an e-mail today.

Children admitted to the hospital with symptoms including high fever, breathing difficulty and neurological problems saw their respiratory function worsen quickly, Caminade said yesterday. A review of 57 cases found 46 of them died within 24 hours of admission, with the rest suffering the same fate within three days, she said. The stricken children were aged three months to seven years.

The United Nations health agency is working with Cambodia’s health ministry and has offered support and access to international experts in areas such as epidemiology, she said. The WHO is on standby to provide support for clinical management and supplies of medicines if requested.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Gale in Melbourne at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at

67 bodies, no autopsies.

Well, good morning, Good Readers.

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