HFMD spreads to 60 locales in Vietnam

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A kindergarten closed on March 1-10 due to a hand, foot and mouth disease outbreak in the Mekong Detla province of Soc Trang

Hand, foot, mouth disease has spread to 60 out 63 cities and provinces across Vietnam, even though it has not entered its usual April-May peak yet, Tuoi Tre quoted a health official as saying on Tuesday.

Some 1,000 new cases are reported every week since the beginning of this year, said Nguyen Van Binh, chief of the Department of Preventive Health under the Ministry of Health.

It is lower than 2011 and 2012 when sometimes 3,000-5,000 new cases were reported a week, but the total number of cases recorded over the first two months is almost equal to the same period last year, over 10,000 cases, he said.

Over the past two weeks, 28 affected provinces saw an increase of 22-700 percent in new cases. That includes the central city of Da Nang, the northern province of Yen Bai, and the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, according to official figures.

Moreover, the virus that causes the disease EV71 remains strong and is able to kill a patient within 24 hours of sickness, the department said.

A four-month-old baby in the southern province of An Giang, for example, died in less than a day after being admitted to the hospital.

In fact, in most 56 HFMD-related deaths recorded in Cambodian patient had high fevers, respiratory failure and died within 24 hours of hospitalization.

With new cases still on increase in regional countries like Cambodia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, Vietnam will possibly see more than 100,000 HFMD cases this year with the peaks falling in April May and September November, Binh said.

As a preventive measures, the department will launch a national hand washing campaign this April, Binh said.

He explained that while it is difficult to tell if a child contracted the disease at school or at home, statistics showed that the rate of people who take care of children under five and have the virus is quite high.

A campaign of environmental sterilization will also be undertaken at schools, especially kindergartens, Binh told Tuoi Tre.

Last year more than 110,000 children contracted the disease nationwide, 41 fatally.

The death toll had been 169 in 2011 out of roughly the same number of infections.

There's no vaccination yet for the disease, which tends to peak in April-May, and patients are put on respirators and provided dialysis.

It infects mostly children under five, and many of the fatalities are caused by EV71, the most virulent strain of the enterovirus that causes the disease. It is also the most common strain in Vietnam.

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