|Taking samples for diphtheria testing in the Central Highlands
The vaccination campaign will be carried out in the four Central Highlands provinces of Dak Nong, Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Dak Lak and two high-risk neighbouring provinces of Quang Ngai and Quang Nam, said acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long.
Priority will be given to children of all age groups who are most vulnerable to diphtheria infection, according to Long.
The acting minister said the Ministry of Health will quickly dispatch four working teams comprised of experienced specialists to the four affected localities in the Central Highlands to assist with epidemic prevention.
He has assigned Bach Mai hospital and the National Pediatrics Hospital to provide quick training for medical workers in the Central Highlands region.
The Central Highlands region has become the country’s diphtheria hotspot with 65 infections, including three deaths. Dak Nong has so far recorded 25 cases, the highest number among the four affected provinces. It was followed by Kon Tum (23), Gia Lai (16) and Dak Lak (1).
Local authorities have set up check-points to quarantine thousands of residents, however experts feared the number of infections is likely to keep rising in the coming days.
“In the rainy season, cold and humid weather is a very good environment for diphtheria to develop,” said Dang Thanh, director of the Dak Nong provincial Centre for Diseases Control (CDC).
Thanh said his centre has zoned off and conducted massive screenings to early detect new cases, especially those living in far-flung areas.
In response to the Ministry of Health’s request, Central Highlands provinces have mobilized all resources, including personnel, medicines, medical supplies and chemicals, to receive patients and disinfect affected facilities.
Low vaccination rate has been attributed to the diphtheria outbreak in the region. According to the General Department of Preventive Medicine, the diphtheria vaccination rate in the Central Highlands region just hoovers around 48-50%, leaving it susceptible to repeated outbreaks.