Last week's figure was the highest among the first 8 weeks of the year, the ministry reported. Previously, the number of new cases each week only ranged between 900-1,000.
According to the ministry’s statistics, high numbers of HFMD patients in the past 3 weeks have been recorded in 11 provinces and cities, including Hai Phong, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang, CanTho, Ca Mau, Dak Lak, An Giang, and Vinh Long.
Of these provinces, the first three have the highest percentage of patients per 100,000 inhabitants of the country, the ministry said.
The statistics in 2011 showed that 76 percent of patients contracted the disease at home, 23 percent in schools and kindergartens and the rest in other cases.
As the epidemic has spread to 60 of the country’s 63 provinces and cities and has become more complicated than before, the ministry said it was reviewing the manual for HMFD diagnosis and treatment and would set up 5 training centers at the Central Tropical Disease Hospital, the Central Pediatrics Hospital, the Pediatrics Hospitals I and II in Ho Chi Minh City, and the HCMC Tropical Disease Hospital.
Training is aimed at improving the efficiency of diagnosis, treatment and patient care to prevent the spread of the disease and the risk of death, the ministry said.
The ministry requested that local health authorities re-check their medical equipment, medicines and other facilities that serve the fight against the disease to ensure they are always available and in good condition.
This year’s epidemic may be more severe than last year’s, since it has broken out sooner - in January-February instead of April or May as in 2011, Tran Thanh Duong, deputy head of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Health Department, warned.
A child with HFMD being treated at the Obstetrics-Pediatrics Center in central Da Nang City on February 22, 2012 (Tuoi Tre)
Epidemic hygiene a must
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness among infants and children that causes a fever and blister-like eruptions around the mouth and/or a skin rash.
There are no vaccines or even specific drugs for this highly contagious disease, but certain precautions can help reduce its spread, the ministry said.
People should wash their children’s hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after they use the toilet and before they eat. They should also keep their children’s toys clean and restrict them from putting any toys or other tools into their mouth.
When patients contract the disease, their secreted fluids, including saliva and nasal discharge, are one of the sources from which the disease spreads, said Dr Ngo Thi Kim Yen, deputy director of the health department of Da Nang City, where 152 HFMD cases have been recorded so far this year, 7 times higher than the previous year.
Children should be hospitalized for examination and treatment after developing symptoms such as a high fever; mouth ulcers; red rash, without itching but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks; and painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks, medical experts said.