Ho Chi Minh City has recorded its first death of an influenza A (H1N1) patient.
The second flu death in the nation less than two weeks after the first was confirmed Tuesday by the HCMC Health Department.
Fifty-two-year-old Tran Thi Binh in District 10 died Monday night, several hours after she tested positive for the H1N1 virus.
Binh was admitted last Thursday with fatigue and breathing difficulty at the 115 People's Hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. When she had not shown signs of recovery after four days of treatment until Sunday, doctors from the city's Hospital For Tropical Diseases were summoned to conduct blood tests for influenza A (H1N1).
After the test proved positive on Monday, Binh, who had lost consciousness, was transferred to the Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital in District 5 where she succumbed to the disease the same night.
The victim, afflicted by Down's syndrome, had developed high fever, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea since Monday last week.
The second test at the Pasteur Institute in the city Tuesday confirmed that Binh was infected with H1N1.
Nguyen Van Chau, director of the city's Health Department, in his report to the Health Ministry said the death of the flu patient with Down's syndrome was related to severe respiratory and multiple organ failure.
The department has ordered the Preventive Health Center of District 10 to sterilize the area around the patient's neighborhood, and instructed the family on burial procedures in order to prevent the virus from spreading.
Direct cause of the death has not been concluded yet. The department said an autopsy will be performed.
Around 16 members of Binh's family are being monitored closely by city health authorities.
Dr. Phan Van Nghiem of the HCMC Health Department said such a death has been expected and the city health authority was prepared.
"Influenza A (H1N1) in the city has reached another stage that both residents and health officials have been concerned about," he said.
The country's first influenza A (H1N1) death was that of 29-year-old Tran Thi Kim Loan who died on August 3 in Khanh Hoa Province, also after having been diagnosed with pneumonia.
Tamiflu concern unnecessary
Flu fears have prompted some people in HCMC to stock Tamiflu at home though health officials have recommended they only use the medicine on doctors' prescription.
Truong Quoc Cuong, head of the Medicine Management Department under the Health Ministry, told Thanh Nien Tuesday that people shouldn't worry about the lack of Tamiflu as the imported quantity so far is 20 times greater than the number of infections.
Nearly 4,500 sets of 10 tablets will be imported in September, Cuong said.
Some pharmacies in the city are reportedly selling such sets at VND1.4-1.5 million each, and Cuong said it was an "unreasonable price," adding each set is being imported at VND450,000.
His department has asked the HCMC Health Department to check such cases and punish those responsible.
Tamiflu can be sold in the market but only on doctors' prescriptions, he added.
More Hanoi students infected
The Education and Training Department of Hoan Kiem District in Hanoi Tuesday reported a seventh-grader at Nguyen Du Junior High had tested positive for the H1N1 virus on Monday. The school was sterilized Tuesday and the classroom will be sealed for seven days.
Also on Tuesday, a fourth-grader at the Hanoi Academy International Primary School in Tay Ho District and a student of the Hanoi Sports and Gymnastic Education University was found infected with the virus.
The female student was staying in a dormitory with six other roommates who have been quarantined.
A temporary clinic was set up inside the university Tuesday with around 20 sickbeds and necessary medical equipment.
As of Tuesday, seven schools in the capital city have been infected by the H1N1 virus.
PANDEMIC FLU SPREADING WITH ASIAN MONSOON SEASON: WHO
The H1N1 pandemic flu is spreading in Vietnam, India and Thailand with the onset of Asia's monsoon season, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.
But transmission of the new virus appears to have peaked in parts of the southern hemisphere including Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand, the United Nations agency said.
Some 177,457 cases of the virus commonly known as H1N1 flu, including 1,462 deaths, have been officially reported worldwide as of August 6, but the true number of infections is certainly much higher, it said.
"We are seeing the spread of the pandemic being reported in many of the tropical countries. And in Asia, particularly in India, Thailand and Vietnam. Also we're getting into the monsoon season in those countries at this time," WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi told a news briefing in Geneva.
The regular influenza season has begun in the three countries, coinciding with the monsoon season, and both H1N1 and seasonal flu are being detected, she said.
"Thailand has reported widespread influenza-like illness and it is increasing. In Vietnam and India there is an increasing trend but it is not yet widespread," Bhatiasevi told Reuters.
India's health ministry last week confirmed the country's first death from H1N1, a 14-year-old girl.
The H1N1 flu outbreak, declared a pandemic on June 11, has spread around the world since emerging in April and could eventually affect two billion people, according to WHO estimates. "In temperate areas of the southern hemisphere Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand - pandemic virus transmission appears to have peaked and is now on the decline in areas previously affected," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.
Meanwhile, the UN heath agency also said infections were starting to decline in the southern hemisphere.
"The pandemic virus appears to have peaked and is now in decline" in several countries in the southern hemisphere, a WHO spokeswoman told journalists in Geneva.
Countries where a deceleration has been recorded include Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand, she said.
Countries are now only obliged to report their first confirmed cases to the WHO, which says there is no longer any point to counting each infection as the virus is unstoppable.
Fears that the strain could become resistant to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu have underscored the need to get vaccines to market quickly.
Leading flu vaccine makers include Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Baxter, CSL and Solvay.
The WHO said last week that the first vaccines should be approved and ready to use next month.
The H1N1 flu death toll of 1,462 stands in comparison to the seasonal flu that causes about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year, and results in about three to five million cases of severe illness, according to the WHO. (AFP, Reuters)