HA NOI — Health experts have warned of unpredictable hand-foot-mouth disease developments in the near future after nine children died out of the more than 6,300 reported cases in the first six weeks of the year.
|Teachers instruct primary school pupils in Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District how to wash their hands to prevent catching hand-foot-mouth disease.— VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung
"HFM disease will spread wider and cause more infection cases in 2012 compared with last year due to unpredictable changes in weather," said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long at a meeting of the ministry's Steering Committee for HFM Prevention yesterday.
"More than 6,300 cases were reported in 60 localities nation-wide, a seven-fold increase compared with the same period last year. Cases of HFM infection have spiked in the north while most of the fatal cases occurred in the south," Long explained.
According to the department, northern Hai Phong City had the highest infection rate, with 848 cases per 100,000 people, with central Da Nang City listed second with 489 cases Experts agreed that HFM disease will continue spreading and be most severe in the months of March, April, August, September and October. The disease will develop in complicated manner, due the large scale of its predicted spread and high infection rate.
National Tropical Diseases Hospital Director Nguyen Van Kinh said all nine fatalities died from the HFM virus subtype EV71, with many complications causing a rapid decline that required on-site instruction for emergency aid and treatment.
Kinh added that more financial resources should be invested to strengthen capacities to minimise fatalities, which are usually concentrated to children under 5 years of age and improve medical equipment at district and provincial levels.
Statistics from the ministry's Preventive Medicine Department said 3,861 cases were reported in the south, 1,529 in the north, 594 in the centre and 344 cases in the Central Highlands.
The nine deaths were all children under 5 years of age, including one living in the central city of Da Nang and six in southern provinces. Nearly 77 per cent of infected children encountered the disease in the community, while 23 per cent were infected at kindergartens or schools.
Prevention and treatment measures should be implemented for minimising further risk to the community at an early stage to minimise infection and fatality rates, especially for children, stressed Long.
Long said the ministry would urge provincial authorities, relevant ministries, government branches and organisations to strengthen HFM prevention measures from the grassroots level. Education and warning activities will be improved with a focus on changing the habits of people in constant contact with children.
"There is no vaccine for HFM prevention, so improving personal hygiene and environmental measures are the best ways to prevent HFM," added Long.
Last year, the ministry reported a total of 112,370 HFM cases in 63 provinces and cities, including 169 fatalities in 30 provinces and cities across the country.
Vow to stop outbreaks
Veterinary officials in HCM City have promised to prevent any outbreaks of bird flu and other diseases affecting cattle and humans even as the A/H5N1 influenza has spread to 11 provinces and a case of H3N2 swine flu has been confirmed.
At a conference last Friday, the HCM City Veterinary Department said at the six major farms in the city, the ratio of birds with the virus antibody was 85 per cent.
The 10 poultry and cattle farms in the city have been classified as being safe from epidemics.
This is done every six months.
Backyard poultry breeding and illegal poultry trading Binh Tan, Binh Chanh, and Hoc Mon Districts were the main threats to the city, Huynh Tan Phat, deputy head of the department, said.
Every day the city requires 1,000-1,100 tonnes of meat, including 180,000 to 200,000 live birds, mostly coming from neighbouring provinces.
Every week veterinary officials seize thousands of birds brought into the city without quarantine certificates.
The department said last year it had done well to protect the city from epidemics by stepping up inspection of poultry entering the city from neighbouring provinces, also vaccinating all poultry and cattle bred in the city.
It had discovered 5,678 cases of illegal poultry trading. — VNS