Hand-foot-mouth disease spreading quickly

Hand-foot-mouth (HFM) disease has been spreading at an alarming rate across the country this year, with more than 12,000 cases reported in 60 provinces and cities, over 7 times more than the number recorded during the same period last year.

Over the past two months, the disease has already killed 11 people, according to the Preventive Medical Department under the Ministry of Health.

Up to 71 percent of people in affected areas are carrying HFM viruses, mostly Enterovirus 71, which is one of the main reasons the disease is spreading so rapidly within communities. In addition, many people still do not follow effective preventive measures.

Haiphong city reported that HFM has spread to almost all districts and towns, with 1,400 confirmed cases. In February alone, the infection rate increased 1.4 times over the figure in January. The city has established a steering board to devise ways to fight the disease, and asked districts to intensify preventive measures.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted Nguyen Van Binh, head of the National Preventive Medicine Department as saying that the southern region is the hotspot of the epidemic, with 19.1 people per 100,000 being infected, which is 1.5 times higher than the national average.  

Dong Thap, Hau Giang and Ca Mau are among the southern provinces that are recording high numbers of local residents contracting the disease, said Binh.

HCM City is also no exception. Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy director of the Municipal Preventive Medicine Department, said that the city had 498 HFM cases reported in February, a threefold increase from a year earlier.

The epidemic has spread to 211 wards and communes, with the average number of infected people amounting to 180 cases a week – an alarming rate, said Tho.

Doctor Ha Anh Tuan from Can Tho City Children’s Hospital said the disease is complex this year and many cases have grown worse after several days of hospitalisation.

The Ministry of Health has launched a national campaign against hand-foot-mouth disease. It will send three teams to inspect prevention and control work in localities this March. The minister has also assigned 12 working groups to support 63 provinces and cities in preventing the epidemic all year round

Last year, 112,000 people were infected with HFM and 169 died from it.