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Vietnam lacks monkeypox testing capability amid global outbreak

By Chi Le   July 24, 2022 | 10:14 pm PT
Vietnam lacks monkeypox testing capability amid global outbreak
Test tubes labelled 'Monkeypox virus' are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. Photo by Reuters
Vietnam currently lacks sufficient testing capabilities to detect monkeypox as the WHO declared the disease a global health emergency Saturday.

The Ministry of Health on Sunday had an emergency meeting with several domestic and international health agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), regarding responses to an ongoing global monkeypox outbreak, just one day after the disease had been declared a global health emergency.

Nguyen Luong Tam, deputy head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, said Vietnam has yet to detect a monkeypox case, but there is a high risk of the disease breaching the border and infecting the population, seeing as several neighboring countries like Thailand, China, Singapore and Cambodia have already recorded monkeypox cases.

Dang Duc Anh, head of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the institute is cooperating with other health institutes and requesting the WHO and the CDC to provide resources for monkeypox testing, including bio-products and testing procedures. Vietnam currently does not have products for monkeypox testing, he added.

"There are very few complete test kits right now. If they are ever supplied to Vietnam, we would need approval from the health ministry to be able to use them. Regarding testing capabilities, we must wait for the WHO to provide us their sample kits first," Anh said.

While waiting for the proper test kits, Nguyen Vu Trung, head of Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute, proposed temporarily using certain bio-products in the lab to diagnose and screen for diseases in emergency situations.

Regarding vaccines, Anh said there are currently two types of monkeypox vaccines approved by the U.S., both for adults. However, the WHO said these vaccines should only be given to groups most vulnerable to monkeypox, for example people having unprotected sex, he added. Reports in the West have showed a prevalence of the disease among men who have sex with men.

Sorroco Escalante, acting WHO representative in Vietnam, said Vietnam should use smallpox vaccines as a precaution. But Vietnam does not have it in store, and is requesting the WHO for provisions.

Nguyen Trong Khoa, deputy head of the Department of Medical Service Administration, said the department has devised the diagnosis process and treatment regimen for monkeypox, and a meeting to approve them would commence next week. Most monkeypox cases have mild symptoms, with certain severe symptoms including blood sepsis and complications in the lungs and brain, he added.

Nguyen Thu Lien Huong, deputy health minister, said monkeypox is not very contagious, and mostly transmits through direct contact and large droplets.

For now, localities should ramp up detection measures at the border, Huong said, adding she agrees with using bio-products in the lab to diagnose diseases in emergencies.

Monkeypox is now present in over 70 countries and territories, with over 16,000 cases and five deaths. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, skin lesions and rashes.

 
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