Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — The number of cases of diphtheria increased to 60 as of yesterday in Bình Phước, according to the south-eastern province’s Preventive Health Centre.
The epidemic has spread to one more commune, Đồng Tiến in Đồng Phú District, after sweeping through Thuận Lợi and Thuận Phú.
The epidemic was declared on July 15 after three people died.
The head of the national Preventive Health Department, Trần Đắc Phu last weekend led a Ministry of Health study team to the two communes hit earlier and held discussions with provincial authorities.
He instructed the deployment of all available preventive methods in the affected areas and the monitoring of family members who have been in contact with patients.
Non-epidemic-hit areas should also be surveilled to prevent its spread, he said.
The provincial health department should work closely with the HCM City Pasteur Institute to obtain vaccines and ensure the coverage rate in rural and mountainous areas is more than 95 per cent, he added.
As of yesterday health officials vaccinated nearly 1,200 of 7,700 people aged from a few months to 26 years who have not been immunised. Authorities said all patients are aged 26 or less.
Dr Nguyễn Thành Trương, head of the Bình Phước General Hospital, said the hospital’s quarantine area is filled with patients.
Eight patients were discharged from the hospital last week, Trương said.
If the disease continues to spread, the quarantine area would not have any more vacant beds, and patients might have to be put in a corridor, he said.
Because diphtheria is highly contagious, Trương said people should not transport patients by private vehicle but should instead call for hospital ambulance.
The main areas where the disease has broken out are home to the S’tiêng ethnic minority, many of whom are poor.
Trương told the health ministry delegation that hospital fees should be waived for poor ethnic patients.
Phu said diphtheria used to be common in the country, claiming many lives until the national expanded programme on immunisation helped virtually eliminate it.
But every year a few cases occur in mountainous provinces, he said.
Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hà Nội told the meeting that diphtheria could cause complications like nerve damage or lung infection.
The rate of mortality is 10-20 per cent, he said, adding that if the disease is diagnosed in time patients would recover without any after-effects.
Its symptoms are sore throat, high fever and swollen neck glands. — VNS