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Infectious, lethal disease kills four in Hanoi

By Le Nga, Linh Nga   September 11, 2019 | 04:41 pm PT
Infectious, lethal disease kills four in Hanoi
Colonies of Burkholderia pseudomallei causing the lethal melioidosis or Whitmore’s disease on a petri dish. Photo by Shutterstock/Reddress.
Four patients succumbed to melioidosis (Whitmore’s disease) at a leading Hanoi hospital last month. Doctors say this is abnormal.

After receiving a total of 20 patients in the previous five or 10 years, the National Institute of Tropical Diseases in the capital city has seen the same number of patients so far this year.

No details of the four who died were available at the time of publishing. 

Local reports Tuesday quoted institute director Do Duy Cuong as saying that 12 patients suffering from the disease were admitted just last month. 

This number was abnormal as the institute had only admitted four cases in the first half of the year, and then four others in July, he added.

One unnamed female patient admitted last month had her nasal alars severely damaged by the disease. She was previously misdiagnosed at another hospital as suffering from blood sepsis by Staphylococcus bacteria, said Cuong.

A female patient admitted to the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi in August has her nasal alas damaged by melioidosis. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Thanh

A female patient admitted to the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi in August has her nasal alas damaged by melioidosis. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Thanh.

"We had to change the entire treatment regimen, otherwise the patient’s life could have been in danger," he said, adding that the patient had been treated with several antibiotics combined with wound irrigation and other methods to deal with the damage caused to her nose and throat.

"Luckily the damage had only affected the patient’s skin and soft tissues on her nasal alars, and had not yet reached her bones. After two weeks of treatment, her wounds have stopped oozing pus and are healing," Cuong said.

Melioidosis, caused by Gram-negative bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei, is an infectious disease transmitted through contact with contaminated soil or water. Symptoms include fever, pneumonia, abscesses and inflammation of the brain and joints. The disease was first spotted in Vietnam in 1925, but many medical personnel currently lack sufficient knowledge on diagnosing the disease, said Trinh Thanh Trung, head of the Science and Technology Department of the Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology with the Hanoi National University.

Cuong said treatment involves the use of several groups of antibiotics for up to six months. There is currently no vaccine for the disease. In Vietnam, the disease often surfaces during the rainy season, from July to November, he said.

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