Diphtheria infections soar to 93 in Central Highlands

By Tran Hoa   July 16, 2020 | 12:51 am PT
Diphtheria infections soar to 93 in Central Highlands
A medical staff takes samples of residents in Lak District in Dak Lak Province for diphtheria tests, July 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Oanh.
Vietnam's Central Highlands provinces are battling a fast-spreading diphtheria outbreak, with 15 new cases recorded in the last two days.

In just over a month, diphtheria has struck four provinces in the region with 93 infections in total and three deaths.

Dak Lak has reported six new cases of diphtheria over the past two days, raising its total to 12. Among the new cases was a 19-year-old woman, now 38 weeks pregnant.

Trinh Quang Tri, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Dak Lak Province, said the pregnant H’Mong patient from Krong Bong District visited a local medical center for a health check Tuesday after developing symptoms including fever, a headache, sore throat and fatigue.

Her samples were collected by the Central Highlands Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology for testing, returning positive Wednesday.

Her brother-in-law was also confirmed positive for diphtheria Thursday morning.

Gia Lai Province has 24 infections as four new cases recorded, and one death.

Mai Xuan Hai, director of Gia Lai's Department of Health, said authorities have quarantined and sampled nearly 7,000 for testing, distributing over 61,000 doses of preventive medicine across affected areas.

About 300 km south of Gia Lai Province lies Dak Nong Province where the diphtheria outbreak hit over a month ago with 30 infections, including two new cases recorded Wednesday. The province reported two deaths last month.

Eban Thanh Son, deputy director of Dak Nong's CDC, said the province is set to distribute 82,000 doses of diphtheria vaccine across disease-hit localities, monitor over 1,100 patients and take samples of another 1,000 for testing.

Neighboring Kon Tum Province has recorded three new infections which took its total count to 27.

Low vaccination rates have been blamed for the repeated crisis in the region. The General Department of Preventive Medicine under the Health Ministry said on June 26 the local vaccination rate for diphtheria was just 48-50 percent, leaving the Central Highlands susceptible to reoccurring outbreaks.

In Vietnam, children under two are given free five-in-one vaccine shots that include diphtheria.

Diphtheria, which can be prevented with vaccination, is an infection caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheria bacterium. It spreads through the air and direct contact.

Symptoms include fever, a sore throat, swallowing difficulties, and white patches in the throat that could block the airway. Complications include myocarditis, kidney problems, respiratory failure, inflammation of nerves, coma, and death.

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