Heat wave, sick wave

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Ho Chi Minh City heat eats away at residents' health


People wait near the admission window at Ho Chi Minh City's Children Hospital No. 1 

Soaring temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius degrees have made children and the elderly more susceptible to a variety of diseases, according to Ho Chi Minh City hospitals.

Ly Le Thanh, director of Nguyen Trai Hospital, told Thanh Nien that more than 100 patients had been admitted to the hospital over the past few days with ailments related to the hot weather.

"Due to the hot weather, most of old-aged patients have experienced changes in blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia and respiratory problems," he said.

Cardiovascular and respiratory issues are often enflamed during hot spells as most people come in from the extreme heat to enter extremely cold air-conditioned rooms, which jars the system. Sleeping in air-conditioned rooms that are too cold can also cause people to get sick.

Hoang Cong Dien, representative of Cu Chi General Hospital, also attributed the sharp increase in patients at his hospital to the hot weather, saying most of them were the elderly with blood pressure problems and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Some were suffering from sunstroke and dehydration, Dien added.

Cu Chi General Hospital's latest statistics showed that at least 2,000 patients came in for health examinations on April 13.

HCMC's major pediatrics hospitals Children Hospitals No. 1 and No. 2 reported they were conducting some 4,000 new examinations each day this week.

Common diseases are encephalitis, meningitis, hand-footmouth disease, respiratory ones and diarrhea, doctors said.

Doctors said hot weather stimulates the growth of intestinal viruses, including those in the Picornaviridae family, which causes hand-foot-mouth diseases and the viruses that cause encephalitis [acute inflammation of the brain], meningitis [the inflammation of the brain's protective membrane]

Diarrhea can be more of a problem during heat waves as food spoils more easily, causing food poisoning.

Children Hospital No. 1, for example, reported that there were days when more than 50 inpatients received treatment for encephalitis, while 30-40 for hand-foot-mouth treatment.

Children Hospital No. 2 said it was currently treating between 120 and 130 children with diarrhea and other digestive problems.

Worse still, the inclemently hot weather had increased the risk of cholera in the southern city, health experts have warned.

The city recorded five cholera patients at the HCMC Hospital For Tropical Diseases over the last week.

The first cholera patient of the year was a 25-year-old woman who then transmitted the disease to her two-year-old son. One of her friends also contracted an acute intestinal infection.

The fourth patient, a 21-year-old man, transmitted it to his 14-yearold sister.

More than ten patients, meanwhile, were put under close observation with cholera symptoms, the hospital reported.

Within the first quarter, the hospital admitted 889 patients with diarrhea, and 110 patients between April 1-9, it added.

Several provinces in the Mekong Delta also reported cholera cases and warned about the risk of possible cholera outbreaks due to the hot weather.

Le Hoang Son, director of Can Tho City's Pediatrics Hospital, said his hospital was overloaded with between 300-400 children in patients a day recently.

Between 1,200 and 1,300 children, mainly with respiratory diseases, dengue fever and digestive diseases, were having examinations each day, he said, estimating that the number of children falling sick to seasonal diseases like chicken pox had increased 10 percent yearon-year.

Dengue fever is always more of a problem in the summer, when mosquitoes thrive.

Local doctors noted that many kids were admitted to the hospital in critical condition because their parents weren't aware of how bad the diseases were.

Vo Huy Danh, vice director of An Giang Province's Department of Preventive Health, said the province had admitted over 200 patients, most whom live in An Phu District adjacent to Cambodia, with acute diarrhea this year.

The province recorded its first patient a Cambodian admitted to An Phu Hospital on January 15. Since then, 23 cases 12 Cambodians and five Vietnamese had been reported, the official said.

In the meantime, Le Thanh Hai, vice director of the National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting, said the rainy season in the southern region would start about one month later than previous years. Usually the rainy season starts at the end of April and ends in October. The dry season also began one month earlier than usual this year.

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