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Officials fear spread of meningitis, bird flu

Update: January, 21/2012 - 08:39

KIEN GIANG — Officials warn that bird flu A/H5N1 could return in a more complex form, given the current cold weather and massive transportation of poultry before and during the Lunar New Year, after a teenager in Kien Giang Province died of the virus on Monday.

According to associate professor Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, this year's first recorded case of A/H5N1 was considered quite fatal after the victim was hospitalised for only a day.

The 18-year-old man from Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Kien Giang Province's Giong Rieng District worked at a duck farm in southern Can Tho City. He was taken to the provincial General Hospital with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath last Sunday.

Le Hoang Anh, director of the Kien Giang Province's Health Department, told local media that the man allegedly caught A/H5N1 virus from the ducks. The confirmation was released after HCM City – based Pasteur Institute released the results of his samples testing positive with A/H5N1.

The Provincial Preventive Medical Centre sprayed chemicals to disinfect areas surrounding his house and monitored others where he visited.

Blood samples from those in contact with him, including both his relatives and medical staff, were taken in for tests.

Viet Nam has seen 59 fatalities since 2003, according to World Health Organisation. The country has not recorded any bird flu deaths since April 2010.

Officials are asking the public to follow strict hygiene procedures when processing poultry at home to avoid potential risks.

Meanwhile, city officials in HCM City have also issued a warning about the possible spread of meningitis after workers return to HCM City from their Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays in their hometowns. The disease has broken out in several industrials parks in the city.

During an urgent meeting with HCM City's Pasteur Institute earlier this week, Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy head of the HCM City Preventive Medicine Department, urged local health agencies to initiate preventive tasks to control the spread of the disease.

Besides several patients in Districts 7 and 9, the HCM City Hospital of Tropical Diseases has also reported that a 14-month-old boy from Binh Chanh District has meningitis, and that others in the community had contracted the disease.

Doctors had no information about the source of the boy's infection; his parents work at Le Minh Xuan Industrial Park in Binh Chanh District. His parents and grandmother tested negative for the disease.

According to Dr. Tran Phu Manh Sieu, head of the HCM City Preventive Medicine Department, after the first epidemic cluster was found in Furukawa Company in District 7, the health agency found one person at a high school in District 9 with the disease.

The HCM City Pasteur Institute tested 51 people who had access to the patient, and of that number, 36 tested positive with the bacterium Neisseria meningitis.

Dr. Sieu said the possibility of contagion was high during Lunar New Year holiday as people were travelling to and from their hometowns.

If the city's health agencies do not take precautionary measures, there could be an epidemic, he added.

Symptoms of meningitis include sore throat, high fever, headache, bellyache and rashes all over the body.

The disease is considered dangerous as the onset of symptoms is sudden and death can follow within hours. — VNS

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