Central Vietnam in dengue fever hot seat

TN News

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Dengue fever patients at a medical facility in central Vietnam

Dengue fever is raging again in many central Vietnam provinces, with first half figures showing a sharp hike in incidence.

The mosquito-borne disease has already claimed several lives this year, including the most recent one last week.

Tran Nhu Son, 41, was confirmed the first casualty of dengue fever in Phu Yen Province this year. He died on July 3 of stomach hemorrhage two days after admitted to hospital, news website VnExpress reported.

Nine people in his neighborhood were later found to have the same fever.

The Phu Yen Health Department has counted around 1,140 cases of dengue fever so far this year, up nearly four times year-on-year.

Its neighbor Binh Dinh Province has reported nearly 1,300 infections including one death during the first half, and although specific figures have not been given, officials say the number is many times more than during the same period last year. 

Bui Ngoc Lan, director of the Binh Dinh Preventive Health Center, said he is worried about a sharp increase in the number of cases during the remaining months of the year, especially with the onset of the rainy reason.

He said local authorities need to work with the residents to destroy larvae at each house. "That is the only way we can hope to prevent dengue fever."

A Lao Dong report cited authorities in Khanh Hoa, south of Phu Yen, as saying the province has recorded the highest number of dengue fever infections in the country this year at 3,180 as of the end of last month, 3.5 times more than the same period last year, including two deaths.

It cited an unnamed source from the provincial health department as saying the disease has not reached its peak, but all medical facilities are already filled up with patients.

The provincial government has allocated an additional VND1 billion (US$47,090) from its budget towards urgent preventive measures.

Khanh Hoa was also the hardest hit in the central region last year with 5,300 infections including five fatalities.

Vien Quang Mai, deputy head of the Pasteur Institute for the central region, located in Nha Trang, said people in the coastal provinces have unwittingly turned the lack of tap water supply into an advantage for mosquitoes to breed.

He said locals would store rainwater in jars which are "very convenient environments" for the mosquitoes.

Furthermore, the situation in the area has become complicated due to the existence of four different strains of the virus, possibly a result of climate change, Mai said.

Health authorities in the region have been sending out teams to kill mosquitoes and their larvae using chemicals and by cleaning water containers.

Officials from Khanh Hoa Health Department and experts from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology as well as the Nha Trang Pasteur Institute are also working on a scientific project that seeks to erase dengue fever from the country by replacing the current species of mosquito with new ones that carry Wolbachi, a bacteria genus that has been linked to viral resistance in mosquito species.

The project, which follows similar ones in China, Brazil, Singapore and Thailand, started with the release of around 200,000 Wolbachi-carrying larvae into local water containers in early April. Family Health International, a US-based non-governmental organization specializing in public health issues, is the project sponsor.

Dengue fever infects between 50,000 and 100,000 people in Vietnam every year, killing nearly 100, according to figures from the Health Ministry cited in a report on the government website.

The disease has infected more than 13,900 people this year, killing ten, the ministry said.

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