Vietnam seeks foreign help after skin disease kills 19

HANOI - Vietnam's health authorities will seek foreign assistance to deal with a resurgence of a mystery skin infection that has already killed 19 people in the central region and terrified villagers, state-run media reported on Saturday.

The disease was first reported between April and December last year, with doctors unable to identify the cause and it has re-emerged in a mountainous district of Quang Ngai province.

One village was reported to be in a state of terror over the death of a resident, and altogether 171 people reported infections on palms and the soles of their feet.

The Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer) daily said frightened residents had blocked access to Reu village.

"A person died last week but only a few people came to the funeral because many were afraid a ghost would catch them and take them along with the deceased," the daily quoted villager Pham Van Khiem, 36, as saying.

Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long, quoted by the Thanh Nien newspaper, said the Ministry would ask the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts to help investigate the cause of the disease.

He said officials were taking steps to reduce the mortality rate. About one in 10 of those suffering from the condition had serious liver disorder, but the disease is not transmissible except by contact through cut skin, media reports quoted health officials as saying.

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