Ho Chi Minh City health officials have warned that hand, foot and mouth disease is reaching epidemic proportions, as nearly a thousand children became infected in the first two months of this year.
Nguyen Duc Tho, deputy director of HCMC Preventive Health Center, said the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.
Figures from the center listed an average of 143 new cases each week so far this year and a total of 936 cases. So far, the victims have been exclusively children.
A total of 498 new cases were reported in February, around 14 percent more than in January.
The center asked district governments to beef up preventive measures and asked schools to report their classroom numbers in order to receive sufficient supplies of chloramine-B, used for sterilization.
The disease is caused by intestinal viruses. The most common strain in Vietnam is Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which causes sores on the mouth and blisters on the hands and feet of those infected.
Several studies carried out by Vietnam's Health Ministry have shown a high rate of healthy people, up to 71 percent, latently carry the virus strain.
The ministry recently reported a sudden surge of hand, foot and mouth disease nationwide in the last week of February, with more than 1,400 new cases, raising the total number of infected children to 7,731, including nine fatalities.
Last year, the disease killed 153 people in Vietnam, mostly children.
HCMC also reported a 25 percent drop of dengue fever infections this year compared to the same period in 2011.
But with two deaths so far this year, the decrease cannot be seen as a sign that dengue fever is relenting, Tho said.
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