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Outbreak of deadly virus closes more than 9,000 schools in Cambodia

cambodia, hand foot and mouth disease, mystery illness, world health organization
Mean Thida, sleeps beside her mother as she receives treatment via a bottle of serum, not in photo, at their home near a dump site at Sambour village, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, July 9, 2012. AP

(CBS/AP) Cambodia is closing more than 9,000 schools two weeks before a scheduled vacation to try to stop the spread of a virus that has killed hundreds of young children around Asia.

Unknown illness kills more than 60 Cambodian children, health officials say
Mysterious deadly illness in Cambodian children tied to hand, foot and mouth disease

Deputy Education Minister Mak Van said more than 2,700 kindergartens and 7,000 primary schools closed Wednesday to try to cope with the menacing form of hand, foot and mouth disease known as enterovirus 71 strain, or EV-71.

The victims sometimes suffer high fever, brain swelling, paralysis and respiratory shutdown, though they may have been infected by people with few or no symptoms. The recent deaths of almost 60 Cambodian children raised the alarm over the disease. A joint investigation between the Cambodian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization revealed most of the deaths occurred in children younger than 3, and some of the kids had been treated with steroids at some point during their illness. Steroids have been known to worsen the health of people with EV-71, according to the WHO.

Vietnam and China have also had outbreaks. And in neighboring Thailand, three schools in Bangkok closed Wednesday over new cases in students.

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