Vietnam at risk of three concurrent pandemics: officials

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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A baby being treated for hand-foot-mouth disease at Children's Hospital 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Minh Hung
Health officials have called for urgent action to prevent concurrent outbreaks of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD), dengue fever and measles.
Phan Trong Lan, director of the Pasteur Institute in HCMC said HFMD’s most virulent viral strain has grown more prevalent in recent years.
“Viral strains that may cause serious complications have increased from 42 percent in 2005 to 72 percent recently. The prevalence of the  EV-71 subtype has also increased. There's a high possibility that we'll see more HFMD patients this year than last year.
At a meeting with Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health, Cao Hung Thai, deputy director of the Treatment Department under the Ministry of Health said the city, which also offers treatment for patients from many southern provinces, should prepare for a simultaneous outbreak of several diseases.
“There's major concern about HFMD spreading amid persistent measles infections. We're facing a high threat of multiple pandemics if preventive control measures aren't taken now,” he said.
So far this year, three major facilities in the city, Children's Hospital 1, Children's Hospital 2 and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases have treated more than 34,000 HFMD patients and 3,200 dengue fever patients (including four fatalities).
Meanwhile, measles continues to spread. 
The number of measles patients at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases increased from 225 in March to roughly 500 in April. Measles infected more than 1,600 children in HCMC this year.
Children's Hospital 1 and Children's Hospital 2 have strictly segregated measles and HFMD patients and their relatives.
Deputy health minister Nguyen Viet Tien, who supervised treatment of infectious diseases at the three hospitals on May 15, called for better communication to raise public awareness of prevent outbreaks among children.
“The residents should be informed about which diseases can be vaccinated against and which must be prevented by other measures,” he said.
At a press briefing on May 14 in Hanoi, Tran Thanh Duong, director of the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, said dengue fever which used to occur mainly in June in the south and September in the north has been active early this year due to environmental and weather changes.
He warned about pesticide-resistent mosquitoes who appear unaffected by Deltamethrine and Permethrine.
“Dengue fever will be complicated as there are four types currently in Vietnam and those who contract D1 type will not be immunize against D2, D3 and D4 types,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam instructed the health ministry to strictly monitor the spread of these diseases and make timely alerts to ensure success in tackling possible outbreaks.
He also instructed the ministry to propose additional vaccinations for the National Expanded Program on Immunization--a project that provides subsidized vaccines across the country.

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