Hand, foot and mouth disease hits southern provinces

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A rising number of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases have been referred to Ho Chi Minh City hospitals by doctors in outlying provinces, health authorities said Thursday.

Seventy percent of children who have received treatment at HCMC's Children's Hospitals 1 and 2 reside in Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Long An, Tien Giang and Vung Tau provinces.

Doctor Truong Huu Khanh of the HCMC Children's Hospital 1 estimated that 100 children are being brought to city hospitals, every day, from outlying provinces.

At this point, Khanh said, the hospitals are overloaded. In some cases three to four pediatric patients are sharing a single bed.

Doctors are concerned that the crowded beds may speed the spread of HFMD.

According to the latest statistics from the HCMC Health Department, more than 3,000 HFMD cases, including 11 fatalities, have been reported this year.

There are no official statistics of HFMD cases in the whole country, but six deaths in the outlying provinces (four in Dong Nai and two in Quang Ngai) were recently reported.

Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy director of the HCMC Preventive Health Center, said that HFMD outbreaks usually arrive every three to four years.

In 2004, the disease hit the city for the first time, claiming 24 lives, he said.

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"It came back in 2007, taking 21 lives," Tho said. "This year, the third endemic is back with a more virulent subtype of the Enterovirus 71 virus, which causes the disease."

Most HFMD patients are younger than five, he added.

Tho predicted that the HFMD cases (and fatalities) will continue to rise, especially in September and October.

"Since there is no special treatment for the disease, I once again highly recommend that parents keep the surrounding environment of their children clean to prevent the virus from spreading," the doctor said.

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