| PHNOM PENH, July 18
PHNOM PENH, July 18 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
"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
"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
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
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.
(Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok and
Rosemarie Francisco in Manila; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron