No Tet holiday for health workers fighting new pneumonia virus

By Le Phuong   January 24, 2020 | 12:17 am PT
No Tet holiday for health workers fighting new pneumonia virus
As of January 24, 2020, Vietnam has two confirmed cases of individuals infected with the nCoV virus. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Hospitals are keeping their staff on duty during the Lunar New Year holiday to combat the spread of the deadly new pneumonia virus from China.

Leaders of the Ho Chi Minh City International Health Quarantine Center (IHQC) are now taking turns doing holiday shifts for the ongoing Lunar New Year (Tet) break, said Nguyen Hong Tam, the center’s director.

Other employees of the center are not allowed to leave HCMC, and it has deployed two new body temperature screening devices at the Tan Son Nhat airport to monitor international passengers, especially those coming from China, where the virus outbreak has raged since December last year.

Those found with acute respiratory symptoms like cough, shortness of breath and fatigue will invited for a medical examination. Those suspected to be carrying the virus will be isolated, transported to hospitals and treated to ensure the virus does not spread, while a list of passengers sitting near those suspected of carrying the virus will be provided to local authorities for supervision, Tam stated.

Nguyen Huu Hung, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Health, said the department is working with the Southern Airports Authority and local hospitals to quarantine virus carriers, dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which first emerged in China’s central Wuhan City.

"During the Tet holiday, departments and centers must be vigilant and respond promptly when an epidemic occurs," said Hung, adding that diagnostic tests for the disease were being carried out at the HCMC Pasteur Institute.

Nguyen Tri Thuc, director of the Cho Ray Hospital, which is treating two patients from Wuhan who have tested positive for the nCoV virus, said the hospital has conducted a general anti-bacterial procedure for its entire premises as of Thursday morning. The hospital’s Tropical Diseases Department has also given preventive medication to health staff who have been in contact with the patients.

"The hospital has developed a procedure for receiving and treating patients, prevention training, isolation, as well as preparing equipment and human resources to combat the virus," Thuc said, adding that both patients were in a stable condition.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son said he has directed the hospital to notify authorities of all localities that the patients (suspected to have contracted the virus) have passed through so that they can also take precautionary and preventive measures to prevent its spread.

Representatives of the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control and other hospitals around the city have also confirmed that they have set up quarantine and treatment plans and equipment to deal with infections.

Two Chinese nationals were quarantined at Cho Ray Hospital on Thursday after they tested positive for the pneumonia virus. Li Ding, 66 and his son Li Zichao, 28, must have passed on the infection among themselves, a representative of the hospital said. This is Vietnam's first confirmed cases of individuals infected with the nCoV virus.

Phan Trong Lan, director of Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi Minh City, issued a warning Friday asking passengers who'd traveled on the same Nha Trang to HCMC train on January 17 as the two Chinese patients being treated for nCoV at the Cho Ray Hospital to isolate themselves for a fortnight.

The father had travelled from Wuhan City to Hanoi on January 13, then to southern Nha Trang Town, HCMC and then southern Long An Province. Li Ding contracted a fever on January 17, and his son Li Zichao, three days later. 

The two patients had taken the SE5 train from Nha Trang to HCMC on coach No. 11, Lan said, adding: "People on the train who were in the vicinity of the patients need to isolate themselves for 14 days to monitor for infection. After 14 days, if there are no symptoms of a respiratory disease, they may continue to live normally."

One of the two patients also went to work at 10 Ton Dan Street in Nha Trang on January 17, which means people who were in contact with the patient at this address should also isolate themselves, the Pasteur Institute director said.

The Ministry of Health is making a list of people who have had direct contact with two patients so as to ask concerned localities to monitor and isolate them.

nCoV was first detected in 41 hospitalized patients in Wuhan on December 31, 2019, after which it was reported in other cities and appeared in Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. As of Thursday, China had reported 640 cases and 17 deaths, and has stopped citizens entering and exiting three cities, including Wuhan. 

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