Vietnam raises alert as respiratory disease threats increase abroad

By Le Nga   December 5, 2023 | 05:00 am PT
Vietnam raises alert as respiratory disease threats increase abroad
Children wait to receive check-ups for respiratory diseases at a hospital in Beijing, China. Photo by AFP
The Health Ministry has called for vigilance against a rise of respiratory diseases, including Covid-19, flu, and a new illness emerging among children in China.

In a statement released Monday, the ministry said several countries in the region have recorded a surge in cases of respiratory illness.

In Malaysia and Singapore, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased 50% and 100% respectively in the week of November 19-25 against the previous week.

Health authorities in both countries said the situation is under control and most cases are not severe. They said the increasing demand for traveling at the end of the year is among the reasons for the surge.

Cambodia on Nov. 24 recorded another case of human infection with the bird flu virus H5N1, raising the number of cases in this country so far this year to six, including four deaths.

In China, there has been a spike of a respiratory disease among children since October and the outbreak has showed no signs of easing.

The World Health Organization said in a report on Nov. 23 that a day earlier, it had requested from China additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism.

Beijing's National Health Commission told reporters last month that the respiratory illness spike was due to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza and common bacterial infections that affect children.

The ministry said Vietnam is also in the period of changing seasons and the low temperature and high humidity in the air would create favorable conditions for the spread of pathogens.

The end of the year is also the period of increasing demand for trading and traveling, which adds another condition for respiratory diseases to spread.

The ministry, therefore, called old people, children, and those with weak immune systems or chronic diseases to raise their guard. It urged people to wear masks at healthcare facilities, on public transport and in crowded places.

People should also wash their hands regularly with soap or disinfectant, as well as disinfect their throats and noses.

Vietnam has already recorded an increase in respiratory patients in recent weeks, and most of them are the elderly or children.

The pediatrics department at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi has almost been full of patients.

Over the past week, the number of child patients admitted for respiratory illness has doubled that of last month, and many children with severe pneumonia disease must rely on ventilators.

"The lower temperature creates favorable environment for viruses causing acute respiratory infections to grow stronger and spread more easily," said doctor Vu Minh Dien at the hospital.

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