Mystery illness in Vietnam kills 19

A mystery illness in Vietnam has killed 19 people and sickened 171 others and has prompted health authorities in Hanoi to ask international experts to investigate.

Public health officials said that the infection has mostly targeted children and young people in an impoverished district in the center of the county, according to

The illness generally begins with a high fever, loss of appetite and a rash that covers the hands and feet. Le Han Phong, the chairman of the People's Committee in Ba To District in Quang Ngai province, said patients not treated early can suffer from liver problems and eventually multi-organ failure.

Ten people remain in critical condition and nearly 100 are currently hospitalized from the mystery ailment. Those with milder symptoms are being treated at home. The illness appears to respond well if caught early, but reinfection has occurred in 29 of the cases.

A team of health officials from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health were sent to the region earlier in the month but were unable to determine a cause. The ministry has asked the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist in an investigation, according to

A WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said that the world health body has yet to receive an official request and cannot begin an investigation without one.