Dengue epidemic grips Vietnam, claims 42 lives

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The Vietnamese government is urging its public health agencies to strengthen measures to contain the spread of dengue fever.

So far, the mosquito-borne disease has sickened 55,430 people across the country, 42 of whom have died, since the beginning of this year, according to a government dispatch released last week.

The number of confirmed cases has spiked in the middle of the country, the dispatch said.

Health officials from the central region have reported a two-fold increase in cases compared to the first eight months of last year. Meanwhile, the Central Highlands region has reported nearly eleven times as many cases as they did by September of 2009.

Nguyen Van Binh, deputy chief of the health ministry's Department of Preventive Health, said the disease is on the rise in the southern region as well.

However, local agencies failed to conduct a proper preventative campaign, he said. Locals still aren't fully aware of the preventative measures they can take (e.g. spraying, disrupting or draining standing water) to decrease their chance of infection.

In fact, dengue is peaking in Ho Chi Minh City, which is seeing 300 hospitalized cases every week, Tran Ngoc Huu, head of the Pasteur Institute in HCMC, said.

Dengue isn't restricted to suburban districts anymore, but has spread to central ones like districts 1, 10 and 4, according to experts.

One of the city's major pediatric hospitals, Children's Hospital No. 2, reported over 600 kids with the disease within the first two weeks of September.

Nearly half of them were hospitalized for treatment a 30 percent increase over last month.

The hospital further advised that 10 percent of its new patients are in critical condition where they may suffer circulatory failure, neurological problems, and hemorrhaging.

The Hospital for Tropical Diseases, meanwhile, said it has recorded over 4,000 dengue cases since the beginning of this year - 50 percent of which were in critical condition.

A representative from the hospital said dengue among adults is often accompanied by unexpected complications.

Without strong preventive measures, the epidemic will spread even more, Huu warned.

The same situation was reported in Hanoi, where dengue cases have spread to all of the city's 29 districts.

Trinh Thi Ngoc, chief of the Bach Mai Hospital's infectious diseases department, said many of the hospitalized victims suffer from internal bleeding which manifests itself in vomiting blood.

According to experts from the Ministry of Health, the epidemic will last till November. They expect to see more infected cases, more critical cases and more deaths with unexpected happenings.

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