Measles kills 2 in northern Vietnam

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A medical worker vaccinates a baby against measles in the northern province of Yen Bai. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

The health ministry on Tuesday announced that measles had caused two deaths in Hanoi and nearby Yen Bai Province over the past week.

A 7-month-old baby from Hanoi’s Dong Anh District died during the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival while the fatal case from Yen Bai was a 3-year-old boy from the H’mong ethnic group who died on January 30, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

The ministry said measles outbreaks infected 99 children in Yen Bai, 87 in  nearby Son La and 117 in Lao Cai Province, and around ten children in Ho Chi Minh City who were not vaccinated.

Children in Vietnam are given two measles vaccination shots at nine and 18 months old, for free, according to Health Ministry regulations.

Tran Dac Phu, head of the ministry’s Preventive Heath Department, said investigations found that 20 percent of the infected children were fully vaccinated and 20 percent of the others had received their first shot.

Parents are instructed to send their children to medical centers for early examinations when they develop rashes combined with heavy coughing.

Phu said measles is not malignant but it quickly destroys one’s immune system and thus causes the children to be infected with other dangerous diseases such as pneumonia or diarrhea that can lead to fatal developments.

He said that of the vaccinated children, only 80-90 percent are protected. But the infection spreads more widely in highland provinces partly due to poor vaccination quality.

“Vaccination in remote, mountainous areas is still problematic, especially as especially as it was not that long ago that the vaccine was carried by horse carriage."

The northern highland provinces are also at high risk from recent measles outbreak in China across the border.

A measles outbreak also occurred recently among youths in Hanoi, who according to Phu were either not or poorly vaccinated as a baby.

Vietnam reported no measles outbreaks in 2012 and 2013 and plans to erase the disease by 2017.

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