A marketplace on the Mekong River
Last week, the World Health Organization reported that an unknown respiratory disease was killing children in Cambodia at terrifying rates. The latest word is that of the 59 kids admitted to hospitals with the disease since April, 52 have died.
Mara Hvistendahl at ScienceInsider has corresponded with the team of virologists in Phnom Penh who are working to identify the illness, and while the diagnosis isn’t certain, they say that they’ve found signs of Enterovirus 71 in cerebrospinal fluid from 15 patients. Enterovirus 71 is one of the causes of hand, foot, and mouth disease, a usually benign childhood infection that causes a rash, vomiting, and other symptoms. The disease is very common and usually clears up in a week or so, and, as with most viral infections, has no cure to speak of.
Virions from a smallpox vaccine
What’s the News: Global health officials are expected to decide whether to destroy the world’s last caches of smallpox at the 64th World Health Assembly this week. The disease was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1979, but two small stores of the virus remain: one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and one in a Russian government lab.
Now, public health officials are divided on how to ensure that the disease stays eradicated. Some say our best bet is to keep the remaining samples of the virus safe and continue to study them, then destroy them at a later date; others say the safest course is to destroy them now, once and for all.