Meningitis kills 4 infants in Vietnam's capital

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Four children have died from meningitis in Hanoi this year, the city health authorities said Tuesday.

The four deaths were reported in Hai Ba Trung, Ha Dong, Me Linh and Hoai Duc Districts, including the youngest victim, who was less than two months old, the news website VnExpress reported, citing a statement by the Hanoi Health Department.

Nguyen Nhat Cam, deputy director of the preventive health center from the department, said approximately ten cases of meningitis occur in the city every year.

"The cause for alarm is the high death rate. In 2011, the city had three infections and two of them died," Cam said.

He said the disease often avoids early detection because its symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu such as fever, sore throat and headache, but the commonplace ailments have the potential to develop into blood infections, brain complications and death.

Earlier in late January, meningitis was suspected as the cause of death of an 11-month-old infant in the central region's Quang Tri Province. However, the diagnosis was never confirmed.

The World Health Organization said 35 percent of healthy people carry Neisseria meningitides, the bacterium that causes the condition, in their throats.

Rainy weather with high humidity and low temperatures are said to facilitate the development of the disease, which spreads through direct or indirect contact with the saliva, or the nasal and throat mucus of an infected person.

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