Director of the Preventive Medicine Department under the Ministry of Health Tran Dac Phu spoke with Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper about effective measures for disease and epidemic prevention.
What do you think about disease and epidemic prevention in Viet Nam during the past year?
In 2014, the epidemic and disease situation was very complicated, especially the increase of newly emerging diseases in many countries.
In Viet Nam, we strived to prevent Ebola, MERS-CoV viruses, avian influenza A/H7N9 and bubonic plague from entering the country. For other diseases such as avian influenza A/H5N1, dengue fever, hand-foot-mouth (HFM) and malaria, remarkable declines in infection and fatality numbers compared to 2013 and the 2006-2010 period were reported.
Last year, the country reported the increase of measles infections and fatalities due to the agglomeration of children who did not receive the measles vaccine over many years. There was also a cross-infection situation between measles patients and those with other diseases in some hospitals due to poor quarantine practices and hospital overloading.
I think that epidemic prevention requires science and technology that can detect a disease quickly so appropriate measures can be proposed as soon as possible.
It is obvious that management plays an important role in instructing and mobilising the whole health care system to get involved in disease and epidemic prevention.
What lessons did the health care sector learn last year?
Detected cases must be handled immediately and comprehensively to prevent the disease from spreading. Disease prevention should be implemented drastically and strictly from the first detected case. Communication plays an important role in encouraging people to participate actively in disease prevention activities.
Another important factor was the involvement of the government at all levels when it came to directing, operating and ensuring financial resources for disease prevention at localities. The health sector was responsible for disease prevention counselling while local authorities took responsibility for instruction and implementing disease prevention measures. Localities prevented epidemics by taking drastic measures.
What are some effective measures for epidemic and disease prevention in the context of increasing strange and dangerous diseases and epidemics?
Disease prevention activities should be implemented comprehensively and harmoniously. In the context of increasing strange and dangerous diseases, it is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the situation and a good supervision system.
One case should be seen as an outbreak and handled as soon as possible. For the long term, we need to deal with problems in personal and environmental hygiene and food safety.
We need to raise awareness about disease prevention and changing bad habits. The whole community should take part in disease prevention if an outbreak occurs. The State should also have policies to help the health system and preventive medicine system implement disease and epidemic prevention measures.
Many express the opinion that the health sector should publicise all information relating to outbreaks in efforts to avoid incorrect information from being propagated by online newspapers and social networks. What do you think?
I think that disease and epidemic situations should be announced publicly and transparently with the aim of raising awareness about disease prevention.
However, the way we transfer information is very important because incorrect information could make people worry too much about disease and not participate in disease prevention activities. Therefore, we need close support from the mass media so the health sector can provide timely and correct information.
What disease and epidemic challenges will Viet Nam face in 2015 and what measures has the health sector prepared to cope with the situation?
I think the disease and epidemic situation will continue to develop with unforeseen occurrences of newly emerging and dangerous diseases. The Ebola pandemic hasn't been controlled yet in Africa while many countries still find avian influenza in poultry and humans.
The World Health Organisation is warning about the return of old epidemics like tuberculosis, dengue fever and HIV due to drug resistance, climate change and trade between countries. Other diseases may re-occur again in the country such as bird flu, HFM, rabies and dengue fever, especially in areas with rapidly moving populations and mountainous and remote regions.
For 2015, the Ministry of Health has drawn up disease and epidemic prevention plans with a focus on strengthening surveillance, as well as prompt detection and handling immediately when the first case is detected. We will also collaborate with mass media to spread information about the disease and outbreak situation and recommend measures for disease prevention. — VNS