Vietnam braces for dengue fever surge: officials

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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Tran Duc Long, director of the Communications Department at the Ministry of Health, informs about the ASEAN Dengue Day (June 15) in Vietnam at a conference in HCMC on June 10. Photo: Minh Hung Tran Duc Long, director of the Communications Department at the Ministry of Health, informs about the ASEAN Dengue Day (June 15) in Vietnam at a conference in HCMC on June 10. Photo: Minh Hung
Despite a dip in the number of cases last year, dengue fever infections are expected to surge during the coming rainy months, said Tran Dac Phu, director of the Preventive Health Department.
"More than 10,200 people have been infected with dengue fever in 42 cities and provinces nationwide so far this year and seven were killed by the disease," Phu told a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday about the launch of ASEAN Dengue Fever Day (June 15) in Vietnam.
“Overall, the number of infections has fallen by 42 percent over the last year. But it is expected to significantly increase in June when rains create favorable conditions for the dengue mosquito breeding,” he said.
Phu admitted that government agencies have neither conducted thorough mitigation measures nor properly coordinated to raise public awareness.
“The community is not aware of how to prevent dengue fever and kill mosquito larvae. Many people still have the habit of storing water in open containers, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” he said.
Phu said Vietnam will face many difficulties in archiving the World Health Organization’s target of halving fatalities and reducing dengue fever infections by 25 percent by 2020.
He said the health minister should not have called on people to dredge sewers to prevent dengue mosquitoes from breeding.
“Dengue mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) only breed in clean, non-polluted water like rain water accumulated in cans and tires. Water collected in flower vases is also a favorite breeding place of theirs,” he said.
During the conference, Professor Phan Trong Lan, director of the Pasteur Institute in HCMC, stressed the dangers of dengue fever which has no available vaccine.
Doctors tasked with treating dengue patients can only try to alleviate pain and other symptoms.
Lan also warned about rising cases of “urban” dengue fever in Vietnam’s big cities due to an abundance of concrete cisterns and the migration of people who have contracted the virus’ different serotypes.
“Singapore maintain good sanitary practices but the number of dengue fever infections remains high. Spaces in and between high buildings store rainwater that serves as breeding ponds for mosquitoes.”
“A person is immunized against a single serotype following each infection. But they are not immunized against other serotypes, the symptoms can become more severe [with subsequent infections],” he added.
Lan officially announced that Vietnam will hold a national meeting in Dong Thap on June 15 to mark ASEAN Dengue Fever Day and all other cities and provinces nationwide will later hold activities to raise awareness about preventing the viral disease.
Vo Thi Phuong, chief of Sanofi Pasteur’s Vietnam office, said a vaccine is expected to be available in 2016.
“Research in Asia has completed and is being tested in Africa. After that, we will combine research from different regions before producing the vaccine [commercially],” she said.
According to the World Health Organization, dengue fever infections have increased by 30 times over the past 50 years and currently, there are up to 100 million infections worldwide annually.

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