Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vietnam - Hand, foot and mouth disease spreads fast in HCMC

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has rapidly spread in Ho Chi Minh City in the past three weeks, doubling the number of patients, mostly children, from July to August, health authorities have warned.

Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy director of the city Preventive Health Center, released the warning at yesterday’s meeting between the city health Department and health authorities of municipal districts.

The number of patients in major hospitals in the city, namely Pediatrics Hospital 1, Pediatrics Hospital 2 and the Tropical Diseases Hospital, has unexpectedly increased over the past three weeks, Tho said in a statement.

The number of new HFMD patients even reached up to 500 in one of the weeks, beyond the anticipation of health authorities, and such a development pushed the total number of patients in August to 2,258, nearly doubling that of July, Tho said.

Six children have died from HFMD since the beginning of this year, compared to 16 last year, he added.

Over the past eight months the city had 7,804 HFMD cases, slightly less than the 7,843 cases in the same period last year.

Last year HFMD peaked in May and June, but this year the disease has exploded in August and September, since good control over the disease earlier in the year slowed its progress, Tho told the meeting.

Prevention must be tightened

However, as the disease can be transmitted through people-to-people contact, it can spread easily, so local health authorities should strengthen effective measures to prevent it from expanding further, Tho said.

As the new school year starts today, Nguyen Hoai Nam, head of the Medical Affairs under the city Health Department, requested that all schools, especially preschools and kindergartens, set out specific plans for HFMD prevention and control.

HFMD is a common viral illness among infants and children that causes a fever and blister-like eruptions around the mouth and/or a skin rash. In Vietnam, the most common strain is Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which causes sores on the mouth and blisters on the hands and feet of patients.

The Health Ministry has previously advised authorities at all levels to make the following information known to the public: the disease can be transmitted though digestive tracts; there are no vaccines or specific medicines to combat the disease; children under five years old are most vulnerable to the disease; and the main preventive measure is maintaining hygienic practices in eating, drinking and living.

People should wash their children’s hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after they use the toilet and before they eat. They should also keep their children’s toys clean and restrict them from putting any toys or other tools into their mouth, the ministry said.


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