Vietnam raises warning levels on Ebola and Cholera

By Lien Chau, Thanh Nien News

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International visitors undergoing temperature screening at an airport in Vietnam. Photo: Thuy Anh International visitors undergoing temperature screening at an airport in Vietnam. Photo: Thuy Anh

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The Ministry of Health has stepped up its preventive measures after high levels of choliform bacteria were discovered on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and the Ebola virus continues to tear through West Africa.
“The threat of cholera infections is high, especially in areas with poor environmental sanitation, a lack of clean water and poor food safety,” Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said during a teleconference on Wednesday.
The health ministry raised its warning level on acute diarrhea due to reports of high concentrations of coliform bacteria in the less-developed areas of HCMC, he said.
“There is a high possibility of an outbreak because the bacteria have been found in surface water,” he added.
Under the new warning level, the ministry instructed provincial authorities to take immediate actions to improve environmental hygiene and decontaminate contaminated neighborhoods.
According to the Preventive Health Department, there has been no cholera infection in human since 2009.
However, health agencies recently found cholera bacteria in snails in HCMC that matched the strain found in 2009.
Long said environmental sanitation on HCMC's outskirts has become a major problem because many people continue using latrines built over ponds and rivers.
Meanwhile, Coliform bacteria have been found in snails sold at the market.
Airport screening against Ebola
At the Wednesday teleconference, the health ministry stepped up preventive measures against the Ebola virus, which is rapidly spreading through west Africa.
Tran Dac Phu, director of the Preventive Health Department, said Ebola is spreading “horribly” in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The World Health Organization has increased its warning level," he said, noting that the virus could spread through international travelers making Vietnam one of the most vulnerable countries.
According to a decision issued by the health ministry on the same day, passengers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria will have to fill out a health declaration form when they arrive in Vietnam starting on August 15.
Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien issued emergency instructions to relevant agencies on Wednesday calling on them to remain vigilant at border gates and hospitals.
The ministry warned residents and governmental officials to avoid visiting countries suffering outbreaks.
On Wednesday, health workers in West Africa appealed for international assistance in controlling the world's worst Ebola outbreak as the death toll climbed to 932 and Liberia declared a state of emergency, Reuters reported.
Liberia also shut down a major hospital where several staff had become infected, including a Spanish priest.
WHO experts began a two-day crisis meeting in Geneva to discuss whether the epidemic constitutes a "public health emergency of international concern" and weighed steps to help overstretched emergency organizations.

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