Multiple viral illnesses spike in Vietnam hub

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Babies infected with hand, foot and mouth disease share beds at an emergency room of the Children's Hospital No.1, Ho Chi Minh City. PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

Ho Chi Minh City reported a huge year-on-year jump of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) cases, in April, along with measles and chickenpox, while dengue fever has claimed three lives.
Figures from the city Preventive Health Center released at a meeting on Wednesday showed that HFMD cases have continued to surge since February, reaching 2,950 cases by the end of April, up 27.7 percent year-on-year.
It said 708 new cases of HFMD occurred in April.
Measles infections rose from a single case during the first four months last year to more than 1,300 this year; chickenpox jumped three and a half times to 509 cases, and flu 15 times to 258 cases over the same period, the center said.
Most of the patients were children under five.
Dengue fever infections have dropped from last year to around 100 cases a week, but three children have died.
Dr Le Hong Nga from the center said dengue fever infections were concentrated at the low outskirts of District 8, although the district authorities said they noted few mosquito larvae.
Dr Nguyen Huu Hung, deputy director of the city Health Department, said at the meeting that health officials should not rely on district government reports since they “are always beautiful.”
Hung said that according to the disease's regular cycle, HFMD might be making a pandemic comeback this year, following mild infections last year.
HFMD, which peaks in April - May and September- November, killed at least 41 out of more than 110,000 patients in 2012 and 169 the year before out of roughly the same number of infections.
No vaccination is currently available for the disease, which causes blisters on the victims' hands and feet and sores in their mouth. Treatment requires the use of respirators and blood dialysis.
Many of the fatalities were caused by EV71, the most virulent strain of the Entovirus and also the most common in Vietnam.
Hung said the infection situation in the city is getting “complicated” and that it will be hard to control all of them.
The department plans to launch a one-month sterilization and mosquito killing campaign starting May 10.
Children up to 10 years old in the city will continue to receive free measles vaccinations to prevent the infection from turning fatal, like it has been in and around Hanoi.
Measles vaccines made in Vietnam are given free to babies in two shots, one at nine months old and another at 18th months.
But many parents were reluctant to seek out the vaccines since some 15 infants have died from complications related to the Ducth-made Quinvaxem vaccine since late 2012.
Health officials have blamed the break in vaccinations for the unusual rise of measles this year.
Vietnam Health Ministry said nearly 16,000 possible measles infections have been reported nationwide this year, “possible” since the figure includes cases that show typical symptoms but yet to be tested for the virus.
At least 133 children have died.
Nguyen Thanh Long, vice minister of health, said the ministry is assembling inspection teams to help push back measles and other infectious diseases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, and 13 other hotspot provinces, including Khanh Hoa that has resort town Nha Trang, and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

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