Vietnam braces for Zika virus

Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long has asked the central province of Binh Thuan to raise its alert level for Zika virus, in order to have suitable countermeasures in place.

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Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long at the meeting with Binh Thuan authorities.

The official made the request during a tour of the locality on March 24 following information of an Australian tourist who tested positive for the virus after returning from a Vietnam trip which included Binh Thuan.

The province was urged to tighten its inspection of samples taken from hospitals, especially in the Mui Ne resort area which receives many thousands of international holiday-makers, and outline its treatment guidelines.

Nguyen Thanh Tam, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, reported that in the first three months of this year, Binh Thuan recorded no case of Zika virus, and that other contagious diseases have been under close supervision.

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City has also put in place comprehensive solutions to fight Zika virus after the World Health Organisation announced that Australia has identified a case of Zika infection in a citizen after returning from Vietnam .

According to Assoc. Prof and Dr. Phan Trong Lan, head of the HCM City-based Pasteur Institute, the visitor may have contracted the virus during his tour of Vietnamese localities, including HCM City .

Therefore, the municipal health sector will coordinate with foreign countries to trace back the tourist’s travel route, while teaming up with the Pasteur Institute to inspect 30 spots vulnerable to the virus across the city.

Samples will be taken daily from patients in local hospitals, with special attention paid to symptoms similar to Zika, such as fever and hives, Lan said.

At the same time, efforts will be focused on eliminating hotbeds of mosquitoes and mosquito larva in key tourist sites, and raising public awareness of the work.

Babies born with microcephaly will be under close inspections in order to promptly detect the virus and prevent it from spreading.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s International Health Regulations (IHR) agency informed Vietnam ’s national agency for IHR implementation about the case of the Australian tourist on March 22, said the Vietnamese Ministry of Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine.

The Australian visitor stayed in Vietnam from February 26 to March 6 and travelled to Ho Chi Minh City , Lam Dong, Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan provinces during that time. After returning to Australia , the person showed some symptoms of Zika infection such as fever, rash, headache, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and nausea.

Also on March 22, the Vietnamese IHR agency and the Health Ministry’s emergency operations centre contacted the WHO agency and Australia IHR to ask for more detailed information about the Zika-positive person’s activities in Vietnam .

The health ministry does not exclude the possibility that the Australian contracted the virus before arriving in or after leaving Vietnam .

The Preventive Medicine Department noted shortly after receiving the WHO agency’s notification, that the ministry sent staff to Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan to verify the claim and oversee the tightening of prevention measures.

According to the WHO, 59 countries and territories have recorded Zika virus so far. Some foreigners, after leaving several Southeast Asian countries like Thailand , the Philippines , Indonesia and Malaysia were also reported to have tested positive for Zika.

Zika is mainly transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue fever. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and, in the vast majority of cases, brain damage. Currently there is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat Zika.


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