Authorities in the central province of Ninh Thuan on Monday declared hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) has reached epidemic proportions in the province.
Ninh Thuan is the first province in Vietnam to declare the epidemic, which has killed 138 people across the country.
According to the provincial Health Department, HFMD claimed three lives among more than 500 infections between January and October, or 24 times higher than the number of HFMD cases in the same period last year.
The HFMD outbreak has occurred in 54 of 65 communes in the province, with 40 new cases reported each week in the past four weeks.
In the whole country, HFMD has killed 138 people, mostly children, out of more than 77,000 infections in 63 cities and provinces this year.
Local media have repeatedly asked why the Health Ministry has not declared HFMD an epidemic so that more money and effort can be poured into disease prevention.
Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien told the media that the ministry can announce a national epidemic only after at least two provinces do so locally.
Ninh Thuan is not the locality with the highest number of HFMD infections and fatalities in the country. Ho Chi Minh City leads the nation in this regard with 11,036 HFMD cases and 29 deaths.
According to the HCMC Preventive Medicine Center, the city reported 322 new HFMD cases last week, compared to just 76 cases in the same period last year.
The city has so far this year reported 11,036 cases, including 29 deaths, while the figures were 3,086 cases and one death in the same period last year.
Under a government regulation, no matter how high or low the number of infections, a city or province can declare an epidemic only if the number of infections register dramatic year-on-year increases and exceeds previous predictions.