Health officials in southern Vietnam are concerned about a diphtheria outbreak after seven people in Binh Phuoc Province were diagnosed with the disease in recent weeks, with three of them dying.
Binh Phuoc health officials said the dead patients were aged 12, 18 and 24 and were from a remote district.
They were hospitalized on June 24 with high fever and breathing difficulty. The two younger people were dead by the sixth day while the other survived until July 8.
A source from the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, which is helping monitor the situation, said 26 others in the district are developing similar symptoms, including four who have tested positive for the disease. They are receiving treatment in HCMC.
Vietnam provides free vaccination against diphtheria for babies aged a month onwards. Statistics show that around 90 percent of children in the country are immunized against the bacterial disease and that it has been contained for years.
But the deaths in Binh Phuoc once again prove that the situation is not under control in poor and remote areas. All three dead people belonged to the S’Tieng ethnic minority group.
In May and July last year the disease killed at least six people in a poor mountainous village in Quang Nam Province in the central region. Those were the first fatalities from the disease in years.