Central Vietnam floods cause bacterial infection outbreak

By Minh Nga   November 16, 2020 | 10:42 pm PT
Central Vietnam floods cause bacterial infection outbreak
Locals in Thua Thien-Hue Province wade through floodwaters under heavy rain in October 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.
The number of patients with melioidosis, also called Whitmore's disease, has increased sharply at a major hospital in the central region following the prolonged flooding.

Since early October Hue Central Hospital in Thua Thien-Hue Province has admitted 28 people with the disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia Pseudomallei, which infects both humans and animals.

Around half the patients are from Thua Thien-Hue and the rest are from other central provinces like Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, and Quang Tri, the province's news website reported.

The hospital is one of three biggest and most advanced general hospitals in Vietnam along with others in Hanoi and HCMC.

It said many of the patients came for treatment only after the disease had become serious, causing sepsis and multi-organ failure and threatening their life.

On November 14 a Quang Binh Province official died of the disease at the hospital.

Phan Thanh Mien, people’s committee chairman of Bac Trach Commune in Bo Trach District, had spent days in floodwaters in October managing relief efforts. He had reportedly suffered from a slight injury to his knee, but carried on evacuating people and wading in floodwaters to distribute essential items in inundated areas.

The hospital had treated 83 people with the disease between 2014 and 2019 and 11 in the first nine months of this year.

It said the rise in the number of infections since early October is closely related to the floods that ravaged the central region throughout October and in November.

Various studies around the world have found that melioidosis occurs only in Southeast Asia and northern Australia, with outbreaks occurring after floods and typhoons.

In October central Vietnam was hit by floods thrice.

Melioidosis patients have symptoms like fever, pneumonia and abscesses in and inflammation of the brain and joints. Its mortality rate is around 40 percent.

The disease was first diagnosed in Vietnam in 1925, but there is not sufficient knowledge about it yet in the country.

There are around 10,000 cases worldwide every year, mostly during the rainy season, around half of which prove fatal. There is no vaccine.

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