HCM CITY (VNS) — Healthcare officials have urged local residents to take preventive measures against soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) infections.
Viet Nam has one of the highest rates of such infections in Asia, according to the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology.
STH infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities, the World Health Organisation has said.
They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.
The main species that infect people are roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworms (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).
Dr Tran Thanh Duong, the institute's head, said that its surveys from 2006-2007 and 2010-2011, a well as other reports in Viet Nam's provinces, showed that 82 million people in Viet Nam had been infected with STH at one time or another, and that more than 33 million people were at a high risk of STH infection.
The rate of STH infection in the Hong (Red) River Delta region topped the list, at 47.7 per cent, following the northern midlands (41.4 per cent) and the Central Highlands (27.9 per cent).
STH can be transmitted by eating unwashed raw vegetables, using unhygienic water, walking in bare feet and having unclean hands, Duong said.
Worms feed on blood, leading to a loss of iron and protein, and sometimes malnutrition, Duong said.
"For instance, each hookworm feeds on 0.04-0.16 millilitres of blood per day," he added.
STH infections cause anemia, intestinal manifestations, Vitamin A deficiency, and diseases related to the liver, gallbladder and lung, he said.
Duong said that vegetables should be washed before eating, and food should be cooked well.
Both children and adults should have the habit of periodic deworming twice each year, Duong said.
The institute is carrying out a community deworming campaign until July 15 to raise awareness about STH infection and health care risks caused by such infections. — VNS