Việt Nam yet to record any monkeypox cases but 'only matter of time'

July 26, 2022 - 07:57
Although no cases of monkeypox had been recorded in Việt Nam as of July 24, the risk of this disease entering the country is very high, according to experts.

Hands of a patient with monekypox. — Shutterstock/VNA Photo

HÀ NỘI — Although no cases of monkeypox had been recorded in Việt Nam as of July 24, the risk of this disease entering the country is very high, according to experts.

At a virtual meeting discussing ways in response to the viral zoonosis illness on Sunday, experts explained that the risk is quite high as monkeypox has so far appeared in many countries, especially as travelling is now more convenient and increasing between Việt Nam and other nations worldwide.

Đỗ Hồng Hiên, an epidemiologist at WHO in Việt Nam, said the arrival of the disease in the country is just a matter of time. There may have been community transmission and authorities need response measures to screen, prevent infections and protect the health of workers who are at high risk, the expert noted.

Hiên recommended Việt Nam prepare capacity for diagnosis, isolation, and management so that when there is a case, its spread is contained.

Nguyễn Lương Tâm, Deputy Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine, said countries next to Việt Nam such as Thailand and Singapore have already logged monkeypox cases.

According to Tâm, since April, Việt Nam has abandoned the requirement on health declarations for international visitors, making it easier for people from other countries, including those with monkeypox, to enter.

The Department of Preventive Medicine suggested that the Health Quarantine Centres and the Centres for Disease Control of provinces and cities have medical screening activities that strictly follow the procedures for both humans and goods. This is regulated by Decree No. 89 of the Government on instructions for certain articles of the Law on infectious disease prevention and control regarding the border health quarantine.

Deputy Minister of Health Hương directed relevant agencies to build scenarios in which Việt Nam is classified in the second or third groups (including countries that have cases of monkeypox and record spreading of the disease) to be ready to cope with the disease.

She asked localities to proactively build their own plans for monkeypox prevention and control.

Relevant agencies were required to coordinate with international organisations such as the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US to strengthen the testing and diagnosis capacity of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and qualified medical establishments. Furthermore, they must review and update information relating to the causes of the disease and prepare the medical equipment needed for diagnosis.

Hương also ordered enhanced surveillance at border gates and medical establishments for early detection and prevention. Attention should be paid to those returning from the countries where the disease has been reported.

Medical workers at all levels will be trained in monkeypox prevention and control measures and treatment for monkeypox patients.

The deputy minister requested ministries and agencies to assess the risk of the spreading of the disease into Việt Nam with the participation of international experts from the WHO and CDC of the US and domestic experts to propose appropriate prevention and control activities promptly.

On July 23, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared monkeypox a global public health emergency due to its rapid transmission rate and the risk of its spread further to other countries.

The world has recorded nearly 16,000 cases in 74 countries with five deaths. An increase in the number of cases, especially in some European nations, has been posted.

Monkeypox can be spread from person to person through close contact, through wounds, bodily fluids, droplets, and contact with contaminated objects such as blankets and pillows.

The disease is often severe in children, pregnant women or immunocompromised people. The incubation period is 5 to 21 days (usually 6 to 13 days). Monkeypox has symptoms similar to smallpox but differs in its systemic skin lesions and enlarged lymph nodes.

Preventive measures

The Ministry of Health has guided people to take the following measures to prevent monkeypox, including covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

People with an acute rash of unknown cause, accompanied by one or more suspected symptoms, should contact a medical facility for monitoring and counselling.

People are advised to avoid close and skin-to-skin contact with people with monkeypox, to not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox and not to share utensils, bedding, towels or clothing with them.

People travelling to countries with monkeypox outbreaks should avoid contact with mammals (dead or alive) such as rodents and marsupials because they may contain the monkeypox virus. When returning to Việt Nam, the travellers need to make health declarations to a local health establishment for consultancy. — VNS