Vietnam's HFMD infection rate 4th highest in Asia

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The hand, foot and mouth infection rate in Vietnam is the fourth highest in Asia and the year-on-year rise in infection is far higher than others, a Health Ministry official has said.

Tran Thanh Duong, deputy head of the ministry's Preventive Health Department, was quoted by news website VnExpress in a Thursday report as saying the disease has been developing in contrast to the ministry's forecast, while many localities were not working very hard to fight it.

The ministry in late last year said the disease has been under control.

Duong said the number of infections in Singapore and Japan have nearly doubled from the same time last year, compared to 7.46 times in Vietnam, with the infected cases jumping to more than 12,400 including 11 deaths.

He said that for many reasons, it's not as simple to control HFMD as Vietnam has managed to do with SARS or influenza A.

"The disease does not have a vaccine or a particular medicine," Duong said, repeating what many doctors have said as the top reason for the problem.

He also blamed the high rate 71 percent of healthy people carrying Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), the most common strain of intestinal viruses causing HFMD in Vietnam, saying many adults could spread the disease to children without noticing.

"That is not to mention hygiene factor," he said.

Duong said many localities had neglected to curb the disease when it broke out, and were caught napping when it began spreading widely.

"Provincial authorities were very late to allocate budgets for preventing the disease, only doing so after a lot of infections were recorded."

Duong said the ministry only receives around VND30 billion (US$1.44 million) every year for disease fight and prevention in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho.

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Other localities have to raise the money themselves, and most of them did not have the necessary equipment and chemicals to fight it, he said.

The disease killed 169 people in Vietnam last year, most of them children. Only 23 percent of the 112,000 infections last year were caught in schools, according to the ministry.

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