Hundreds of citizens in the remote area of Sagaing have been struck down by a mysterious disease that has killed over 30 children so far.
Health authorities say they are struggling to treat victims as there is no known cure or treatment for the disease.
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The illness, with measles-like symptoms, has hit the far corner of northern Sagaing, a mountainous area which borders eastern India and is populated by people from the Naga tribes.
Adults and children have both been struck since the outbreak first emerged in June, a local MP said, but the illness appears to be particularly deadly to children under the age of five.
“Altogether 23 children were have been killed in Lahe township and 13 killed in Nanyun township since June because of this unknown disease,” Law Yone, a regional MP (NLD; Lahe 1) from the Naga self-administrative region told AFP.
“Rashes came out on their bodies. They have a fever and difficulty breathing because of coughing. Blood also comes out while coughing,” he said.
Some 200 people so far have come down with the disease, he said, adding that central authorities have been slow to react.
A health ministry official in the capital Nay Pyi Taw confirmed the outbreak, including more than 30 deaths, and said tests were being carried out.
“We assume at an initial stage it’s a measles outbreak or strong influenza. But we can definitely say only when we get the result from the laboratory,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
The outbreak highlights how vulnerable more remote populations are in a country where healthcare was never prioritised and remains perennially underfunded.
Although budgets slightly increased in the last few years, Myanmar is still one of the lowest spenders on healthcare as a share of GDP.
According to the latest World Bank figures, health spending increased from 0.2 percent to just over 1pc of GDP from 2009 to 2013 despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
The previous government, which set the spending agendas for the new administration, dedicated only 3pc of the 2016-17 budget to healthcare.