|Takeshi Kasai, country representative of the World Health Organisation's office in Viet Nam, has a look at a X-ray of a child who is being treated at the National Hospital of Paediatrics. — Photo Vietnam+
HA NOI (VNS)— A total of 108 children have died from measles and its complications so far this year out of a total of 2,492 confirmed cases throughout the nation.
The health ministry has been ordered to bring the situation under control as soon as possible.
This was announced yesterday by Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien at a meeting with hospital chiefs and medical experts from the World Health Organisation.
One hundred and three of the children who died were admitted to Viet Nam National Hospital of Paediatrics, four to Bach Mai Hospital and one to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases.
Deputy Director of the Viet Nam National Hospital of Paediatrics, Le Thanh Hai, said that 25 children had died directly from the infection, while another 78 had died from its complications, including pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Hai said that the hospital had 48 medical ventilators, but found itself overloaded with child patients.
Authorities are now considering how to reduce the load on the paediatrics hospital and how to reduce the number of measles-related fatalities.
Nguyen Thi Minh Chanh, director of Thai Binh Hospital for Paediatrics, told Viet Nam News Agency yesterday that the hospital had received 130 children with measles so far this year.
Chanh said that measles attacked children under nine months, which was unusual. Normally, measles attacked older children.
She advised parents to maintain good daily personal hygiene for their children and to give them healthy diets to strengthen their immune systems.
Director of the National Hospital of Paediatrics, Nguyen Van Kinh, said that this year, measles had created acute immuno-deficiency in child patients.
"So, it's hard for children with measles to avoid contracting other diseases, leading to a high mortality rate, especially for young babies," he said.
He announced an additional medical regime to treat children with measles. This will involve .giving gamma globulin injections to strengthen a patient's immunity.
At another meeting on Tuesday, head of the Health Ministry's General Department of Preventive Medicine, Tran Dac Phu, said the ministry had yet to announce a measles epidemic.
He said the ministry only announced an epidemic when at least two major localities in the country reported that the spread of a disease had reached epidemic proportions. "At present, no locality has reported an epidemic," he stated.
Phu advised parents to take their children to provincial hospitals first if they thought they had the disease.
He said this would help avoid overcrowding at central-level hospitals, which could complicate treatment.
At the Tuesday meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam ordered the health ministry to provide the best facilities to treat the children.
Dam asked the ministry to mobilise all medical ventilators from national reserves to help in treatment.
In a related move, health departments in Hai Phong City have mobilised resources for the examination and treatment of measles.
The city's health department said that 59 children had been diagnosed with measles since early this year, including 16 children under the age of one.
PM steps in
In an official message yesterday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked all ministries, sectors and localities to actively join hand in preventing the expansion of a measles outbreak. He also asked them to try and minimise the number of deaths caused by the disease.
Dung asked the Ministry of Health to take drastic measures to quickly control the outbreak by ensuring all patients were quickly diagnosed and treated. He also said steps should be taken to prevent cross-infection. The ministry was also urged to supply enough vaccines, drugs and medical equipment to treat patients.
The prime minister asked local authorities to work closely with the ministry on any quarantine measures, to provide measles vaccination to high-risk groups and to grant financial assistance to patients in need.
He directed the Ministry of Information and Communications and media agencies to update information on measles and raise public awareness of the potential danger of the disease. The Ministry of Finance was also asked to ensure enough money was set aside to control the outbreak. — VNS