Vietnam ministry issues meningitis warning

TN News

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The peak season for meningococcal meningitis, a fatal bacterial form of meningitis that affects the brain membrane, is about to hit Vietnam, health officials said.

The Health Ministry has reported 124 infections this year, mostly in the northern provinces of Thai Binh and Son La, as well as Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta's Ben Tre Province.

Five of the patients died, Vietnam News Agency reported.

The World Health Organization said the disease is fatal in half of cases that are left untreated.

The infection rate so far this year has been 40 percent lower than over the same period last year, but there has been only one less fatality.

The ministry said the numbers have been dropping since 2007.

Doctors said the disease can cause severe damage to the brain in cases of late intervention, as well as loss of hearing, kidney damage, and emotional and psychological problems.

The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Patients in fast developing cases also show rashes.

The disease spreads through the respiratory system and between 25-40 percent of healthy people carry the bacteria.

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Several different bacteria can cause meningitis. Neisseria meningitidis is the one with the potential to cause large epidemics.

A number of vaccines are available.

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