Update: 20:25 | 08/07/2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH) convened an emergency meeting with medical experts on July 7 to discusses measures to cope with the worsening diphtheria outbreak in Central Highlands.
Reporting at the meeting, Dang Quang Tan, Director of the MoH’s Department of Preventive Medicine, said that 63 diphtheria cases were confirmed in the Central Highlands from the beginning of this year, up ten cases compared to statistics on July 6.
Children from Bong Hiot Village in Hai Yang Commune, Dak Doa District, Gia Lai Province, undergo health examinations for the early detection of diphtheria.
Dak Lak is the latest province to record its first outbreak, while Dak Nong has four more cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 25. Gia Lai has five more cases, totaling 15. In Kon Tum alone, the number of cases has remained at 22. There have been three deaths in the area.
Most of those infected there have not been fully vaccinated against diphtheria. The full rate of verified vaccinations is only about 6%.
The MoH has directed the Central Highlands Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, the Departments of Health and the Centres for Disease Control in these localities to intensify strict supervision over infections, while taking samples for early detection of new cases and promptly implementing measures to thoroughly stamp out the outbreak.
Nguyen Trong Khoa, Deputy Director of the MoH’s Medical Services Administration, said that up until now, the ministry has organised training courses on diphtheria associated with dengue fever and Covid-19 handling for four provinces in the Central Highlands.
The ministry has directed medical examination and treatment facilities to enhance early detection of new cases and promptly isolate outbreaks, as well as preparing isolation venues and necessary means and medicine.
Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thanh Long, the newly-approved acting health minister, said that diphtheria has progressed very differently to the previous years. The disease has increased rapidly with the number of cases tripling compared to the same period last year.
Diphtheria is likely to spread due to the low immunity rate in the affected areas. It has spread on a broader area, with more people of all ages infected, not only children. The mortality rate due to this disease to date is especially high, Long assessed.
He required that all the concerned forces and local authorities should focus on the prevention and control of diphtheria in the same way that Vietnam has tried its best to cope with Covid-19.
Long assigned the Preventive Medicine Department to coordinate with the National Expanded Immunisation Programme to immediately launch a diphtheria prophylaxis vaccination campaign for all subjects aged from two months and older, stressing it as an urgent task.
The acting health minister also required immediate preventive treatment on people who are exposed to the germs and those in the diphtheria-affected areas.
Regarding vaccines against the disease, Vietnam still guarantees diphtheria vaccine supply. However, it is currently required to vaccinate people in the epidemic areas in the four Central Highlands provinces first, before taking other at-risk locales into account, Long stressed.
He asked the Medical Services Administration to set up four working groups to come to support the epidemic areas, in parallel with using the remote health care system to provide professional support to the affected localities.
He also requested a review of all treatment regimens and prepare adequate drugs, in addition to restarting the tracing programme on mobile app BlueZone to review all epidemiological factors in the area.