Official dies from infection contracted during flood relief efforts

By Hoang Tao   November 13, 2020 | 05:49 pm PT
Official dies from infection contracted during flood relief efforts
Phan Thanh Mien (R) wades in floodwater to provide food for people in inundated areas in Quang Binh Province, October 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quang Ha.
A Quang Binh Province official who spent days in floodwaters last month managing relief efforts died of a bacterial infection this week.

Phan Thanh Mien, 51, People’s Committee Chairman of Bac Trach Commune in Bo Trac District, caught a fever and was hospitalized, Nguyen Van Thuy, deputy chairman of the district, said.

Mien had reportedly suffered from a slight injury to his knee, but carried on evacuating people and wading in floodwaters to distribute essential items to people in inundated areas.

He was first taken to a local medical center for treatment, but his condition did not improve and was transferred to the Vietnam-Cuba Dong Hoi Friendship Hospital with a high fever and a swollen knee.

He was then taken to the Hue Central Hospital, where he was put on ventilators and underwent artificial blood filtration. But doctor’s efforts proved in vain and he succumbed to the infection.

Doctors said he died on Wednesday of melioidosis, a disease caused by the gram-negative bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. They suspected he might have been infected after being in direct contact with contaminated soil and water.

Melioidosis, also called Whitmore's disease, has symptoms like fever, pneumonia and abscesses 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.

Quang Binh and other central provinces were hit by a series of storms and tropical depressions last month, which caused heavy rains, floods and landslides.

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