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Brothers die of Whitmore's Disease in Hanoi

Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 15:00 GMT+7
Brothers die of Whitmore's Disease in Hanoi
Contaminated soil can be a source of bacteria causing Whitmore's Disease. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Two young brothers in Hanoi have recently died of Whitmore's Disease, while both family members and doctors are still unclear how they got infected in the first place.

It is a rare case for two brothers living in the same house to be killed by the disease, according to health officials in Vietnam.

According to the boys’ parents, their five-year-old son was admitted to the Hanoi-based Vietnam National Children’s Hospital with a high fever on October 28.

He tested positive for Whitmore's Disease and passed away four days later.

Their one-year-old son was infected with the same illness on November 11 and died at the infirmary on Saturday last week.

Their seven-year-old daughter had previously been killed by septicemia, a serious bloodstream infection, and necrotizing enterocolitis.

Medical records showed that the girl was not diagnosed with Whitmore's Disease.

Also known as melioidosis, Whitmore's Disease is an infectious disease that can infect humans or animals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which can be found in contaminated water and soil and is often spread to humans through direct contact, such as open wounds, with the contamination source.

Adults, especially farmers, have a higher risk of infection as they are more likely to be in direct contact with the sources of contamination, while children usually have a lower risk, said Tran Minh Dien, a doctor from the Vietnam National Children’s Hospital.

According to Nguyen Nhat Cam, director of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control, the fatality rate of the disease in adults is about 40-50 percent.

The two boys are this year’s first children to be killed by Whitmore’s Disease, Cam added.

The disease was first recorded in the early 20th century and used to be quite rare, he stated, adding that the number of Whitmore’s Disease patients has been increasing lately.

Multiple cases were recorded in Hanoi and the northern provinces of Yen Bai and Thai Nguyen, as well as in the north-central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, and Binh Dinh Province in south-central Vietnam this year.

So far there has been no evidence that the disease can be spread from humans to humans, Cam remarked.

In order to prevent Whitmore's Disease, it is recommended that people avoid contact with water and soil that have a high chance of being contaminated, according to Dr. Dien.

Protective clothing and gear are a must for laborers who work outdoors or are constantly in direct contact with polluted sources.

Patients diagnosed with the disease must strictly follow the directions of their doctors, Dien stressed.

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