Hand, foot and mouth disease in the Mekong Delta has suddenly become more severe and fatal recently, causing overloads at many hospitals in the region.
Reports from hospitals showed a rising number of deaths and more than 2,000 new infections in October at many provinces, figures three and four times higher compared to a year earlier.
Can Tho Children's Hospital received 2,300 new cases in October, including 448 severe cases in need of hospitalization and five deaths.
The hospital had to have four children share a sickbed, with seven or eight beds arranged in each room of 12 square meters.
An Giang and Dong Thap Province recorded 15 deaths. An Giang, which has topped the death toll from the disease this year with 12 cases, reported 2,600 new cases while Dong Thap recorded more than 2,200, similar to figures from Long An Province.
Tien Giang reported more than 2,800 new cases including one death. Some infections came from local kindergartens, where the threat of spreading the disease is greatest.
Infections are in children under five years old, and many of the fatalities were caused by EV71, the most virulent strain of the Entovirus that causes the disease, also the most common one in Vietnam.
Doctor Vo Huy Danh, director of the An Giang Preventive Health Center, told Phu Nu magazine "the increases are worrying."
Danh said this time of year used to see few infections and almost no deaths.
He warned that cooler weather the rest of the year could further facilitate the spread of the disease.
The doctor said many parents were not aware of the danger of the disease.
He also blamed poor cooperation among local authorities, noting that neglect in An Giang has prevented the province from obtaining necessary medical equipment sooner.
There's no vaccination yet available for the disease and patients are supported with respirators and blood dialysis to boost recovery.
Danh said his center had proposed obtaining those machines in May, after the fifth death of the year. But it only received them in early September. The machines were said to cost nearly VND11 billion (US$528,700).
The disease starts with blisters on hands, feet, knees, and elbows, and mouth sores.
Reports by the Health Ministry in mid-October said the disease infected more than 110,000 children nationwide from the beginning of this year, including 41 deaths in 15 cities and provinces.
It claimed 169 last year, out of 110,000 infections.
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