by Nguyen Thanh Ha
All the reporters and editors in my news desk had put on a comforter because they were afraid that they could have been infected with measles by a colleague whose 15-years-old son was believed to have contracted the disease.
The entire editing team asked the mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, to stay at home and not report to work, and if she did not heed the request, they intended to ask their boss to allow them to stay at home to escape being affected.
Despite the admonitions, the mother reported to work a day later to confirm that her son's ailment was hives and not measles, but her colleagues, particularly young mothers who were reporters, still did not believe her as they were afraid that she could have contracted the disease from her son and that it could infect the others at any time.
The fear of measles is not confined to this editing room. Other young mothers have similar fears, such as model Xuan Lan, who said she is constantly haunted by the thought of contracting the disease.
"I do not eat well or sleep well. I am terribly afraid of the disease because my 6-month-old daughter is not allowed to get vaccinated," said Lan, adding that she is seeking assistance from experienced people to keep her little girl from being affected by the disease.
Singer Luu Huong Giang agreed with Lan: "It is terrible. It is unbelievable that many children have died of the disease."
MC Dan Le, who is pregnant and has a 3-year-old boy, said that she was very confused about whether to let her boy stay at home or continue attending school.
It is not only people in Viet Nam who are afraid of measles, which has become a hot-button topic on mass media, but also people in other countries.
It was early in the morning when a friend of mine, Duong Quang Phong, who lives in Los Angeles, phoned me to enquire about measles in Viet Nam.
"I was shocked when I heard the news through the mass media that more than 100 children have died of the disease," Phong remarked.
He noted that his 77-year-old mother Tran Thi Dy was very sad too. She asked Phong to share her experience with people in Viet Nam to fight against the disease.
First, people should get their children vaccinated and then try to understand the disease, ways of getting infected, and how to prevent being infected.
From her experience, to prevent measles, people should eat boiled coriander, while measles-infected children should drink boiled coriander water several times per day.
"By doing this, instances of measles and fever can be reduced, and a patient can recover after several days," Phong quoted Dy's claim.
In the past, vaccines were not available, but people did not fear the ailment as much as they do now because they accepted that every child would suffer measles and took the appropriate precautions.
For example, during the 1980s when my 2-year-old daughter had measles, we tried to protect her from wind by putting her in a mosquito net and avoided bathing her, while also separating her from other children.
If we could not follow these precautions, the measles could cause pneumonia and heavy respiration and then the child could die.
Many families, particularly young ones, have not followed these steps, so their children suffered side effects that often turned fatal.
A 14-year-old girl in Phu Tho Province died because she waded into a pond to get water-ferns for her pig while infected with measles.
We should not use antibiotics if there is no complication because they only kill bacteria, not the measles virus. Antibiotics can make the disease even worse.
Currently, many children are dying because measles epidemics have not occurred for a long time, so parents did not know how to prevent them and forgot to vaccinate their children against measles.
In addition, young parents, when seeing their children show measles symptoms, often use their motorbikes to bring them to the hospital. Their action made their child catch wind, causing pneumonia and death.
According to my experience, a child with measles should be kept separately from others, but people all try to bring their children to hospitals that are already full of similar patients, making their ailment more serious.
The Health Ministry has warned that people, particularly children with respiratory inflammation or those having symptoms of measles, such as a fever, cough, difficulty breathing and hives, should not travel or join crowds of people.
Children who have not been vaccinated against measles should be vaccinated as soon as possible, while their parents should ensure good nutrition and clean their children's teeth, nose, throat and eyes.
The parents themselves should clean their hands very often, while keeping their house clean and germ-free, the Ministry said.
The Ministry has announced that children who are travelling and have the symptoms of measles must be taken to the nearest health clinic for consultation and examination for timely treatment. These children should not come into contact with other people, or the disease might spread.
Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien stated that measles will not return if 85 per cent of children are vaccinated.
The measles death toll has gone up to 135 as of May 6 after the disease broke out 3 months ago, according to a report by the Health Minister.
To prevent measles effectively, mass media should promote popularisation on the disease while warning people to bring their children to be fully vaccinated. — VNS