Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness

Scores of teenage girls in Colombia struck by mystery illness parents blame on vaccine

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Authorities say they still don't know what caused more than 200 girls in El Carmen de Bolivar to come down in recent weeks with symptoms ranging from fainting to numbness in the hands and headaches.

All were injected in recent months with the vaccine Gardasil, leading desperate parents to point the finger at authorities and the drug's American manufacturer, Merck.

Health experts say the vaccines are safe and have criticized Colombian media for stirring baseless concerns about their application.

Blood tests investigating the illness should be ready in a week.