Viet Nam News
BÌNH PHƯỚC — The People’s Committee of the central province of Bình Phước yesterday declared diphtheria an epidemic after three people died and 47 others were hospitalised to be treated for the bacterial infection.
Nguyễn Đồng Thông, director of the provincial health department, said this was the first time the disease was reported in the province.
Most of the infected people are from six to 26 years old and living in Đông Phú District’s Thuận Lợi and Thuận Phú communes. They have all displayed symptoms of high fever, sore throat, coughing and headaches. When combined, these symptoms are easily misdiagnosed as swollen tonsils.
According to the Department of Preventive Medicine, diphtheria is caused by a type of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheria. The infection usually attacks children, but adults can be infected if their immune systems are weak. The condition is easily spread through person-to-person contact or through contact with objects that have the bacteria on them, such as cups or used tissues.
To prevent the disease, the department advised people to get routine vaccinations, regularly wash their hands with soap, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and keep their houses clean. Anyone who has symptoms of diphtheria must be quarantined and taken to the hospital for timely treatment.
A reduction in diphtheria immunisations might be a factor behind the sudden outbreak in the province, Thông said.
Nguyễn Văn Sáu, deputy director of the provincial health department, said the immunisation coverage among local residents was 95 per cent and those who didn’t get vaccinated might be at risk of becoming infected with diphtheria.
However, he said, all three of the deceased individuals had been vaccinated for diphtheria, according to their relatives.
While 80 to 90 per cent of people are immune to the disease after getting vaccinated, the rest might become infected due to some errors in the immunisation process, Sau explained.
The provincial health department has coordinated with the Pasteur Institute and local authorities to disinfect the environment in communes and villages where cases of diphtheria were reported, he said.
About 10,000 doses of diphtheria vaccines have been delivered to the province, Sáu said.
The vaccine was provided by the Ministry of Health to ensure that all citizens aged 6-16 get vaccinated against diphtheria.
Phan Trọng Lân, head of the Pasteur Institute, said the epidemic was contained to two communes and didn’t spread to other districts.
He urged the provincial health department to promptly carry out vaccinations for 9,000 people aged from 6-16 to ensure that the rate of immunization covers 95 per cent of the population – the suggested percentage to prevent diphtheria outbreaks.
Thông said diphtheria outbreaks often occur in areas with overcrowding, low immunisation rates and poor hygiene.
He advised parents to take their children to receive vaccinations on schedule and with the right dose, as outlined by the expanded programme on immunisation. — VNS