Ministry struggling to identify cause of HFMD

World Health Organization, the United States Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of Health in Vietnam is working on identifying a cause for the sudden increase in hand-foot-mouth disease cases.

Hand-foot-mouth patients under treatment in Children Hospital No.1 in HCMC (Photo: SGGP)

The Ministry of Health announced that the highest number of infections have occurred between the months of March to May and September to December.

The ministry is now working with the international organizations to identify the specific strain of virus that is causing such wide-spread occurrence of the disease in Vietnam.

Dr. Nguyen Van Binh, Director of the Disease Preventive Department under the Ministry of Health, said that related authorities were working closely with the Ministry of Education and Training to create a program to prevent hand-foot-mouth disease cases from spreading in schools, kindergartens and nurseries.

The Ministry of Health is actively using the media as a means to raise awareness in citizens and propagate preventive methods to control the disease, besides also organizing groups to visit residents in infected areas and offer whatever help they can.

The Ministry however admitted that co-ordination amongst local communities was poor and it was left to the health officials to do whatever was best for the citizens. Though, if citizens are more proactive in reporting cases of new outbreaks, closely supervise small private nurseries and infected residential areas, the threat to the disease could greatly reduce.

New statistics from the Ministry of Health show that since 01 January 2011, 98 deaths and 42,673 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease cases have been confirmed across the country (five times higher than the same period last year).

Three fourths of deaths have been children aged 3 years or less. Typically, hand-foot-mouth disease occurs sporadically but remains mostly concentrated in the Southern and Central provinces. It is worth noting that 50 percent of hand-foot-mouth cases are caused by EV71, which can sometimes cause severe complications, including neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

Presently there is no vaccine or specific medication against hand-foot-mouth disease.
The risk of infection is significantly lowered with higher standards of personal and environmental hygiene.
The Ministry of Health recommends the following precautionary measures:
1. Remind children to wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
2. Regularly wash hand with soap and water, especially after changing diapers, before preparing food, before eating, before feeding children and after using the toilet.
3. Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
4. Thoroughly clean contaminated surface and soiled items, first with soap and water and then with a mild disinfectant at home, in nurseries, kindergartens and schools at least twice a day, and maintain clean surroundings.
5. Avoid sending children to nurseries, kindergartens or schools if they are suffering from hand-foot-mouth disease or if such places have reported infected cases of the disease.
6. Eat hygienically cooked food and drink clean water. Children should eat well-cooked food and drink boiled water. Do not share feeding utensils.
7. Avoid close contact (kissing, hugging etc.) with infected people.
8. Monitor children’s health for early detection of symptoms and take those who have persisting fever and blisters on hands, feet or mouth to the nearest health facility for treatment as soon as possible.
9. Ensure that kindergartens and pre-schools provide hand-washing facilities with soap and water for young children, and have clean toilet facilities and garbage disposal.

By Nguyen Quoc –Translated by Thanh Tam

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