Thirty-seven boys in northern Hung Yen Province have developed genital warts after allegedly undergoing circumcisions at an unlicensed clinic.
The boys, all under 15 years of age, are receiving treatment at the National Hospital of Dermatology and Venereology in Hanoi for the condition.
Genital warts are symptoms of a contagious sexually transmitted disease caused by types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
The underage patients were all admitted to the hospital between May 1 and July 17, after developing genital warts following treatment for phimosis – a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back past the glans – at an unlicensed clinic in Hung Yen.
Do Thi Tham, the mother of one of the boys, said she had taken her son to a clinic in Hung Yen’s Khoai Chau District in mid April for genital examination after he discovered a large smegma build-up at the tip of his penis.
“The doctor said his condition was serious and required circumcision,” Tham said. “Little warts started appearing on my son’s penis in June, so I took him back to the clinic. The doctor used a pair of scissors to make excisions, then asked me to return daily to apply chameleon minerals.”
After a few days, the condition worsened so Tham decided to take her son for a blood test at a provincial hospital, where doctors told her to seek treatment at the National Hospital of Dermatology and Venereology in Hanoi.
To the surprise of both doctors and his mother, it was here that the 15-year-old boy was diagnosed with genital warts, a sexually transmitted condition typically found in adults.
Tham’s son however is just one among 37 other boys also diagnosed with the disease at the Hanoi hospital between May 1 and July 15, all of whom come from Hung Yen.
According to Le Huu Doanh, deputy director of the hospital, the patients had all been treated for phimosis at a clinic in Hung Yen prior to the development of genital warts.
“Genital warts in children are rare and could be the result of surgical procedures using unsterilized tools and equipment,” Doanh explained.
“Treatment options for genital warts in children are limited to medication and the application of topical agents, since local or general anesthesia used in other more invasive procedures could pose dangers to such young patients,” Doanh said.
“The prolonged existence of genital warts could lead to a range of dangerous complications, including cancer,” he added.
According to a representative from the Hung Yen Department of Health, a team of health inspectors were dispatched on Monday to the private clinic where the boys had allegedly been treated for phimosis.
L., the sole doctor responsible for the clinic’s operations, was not present at the time of inspection.
L. is employed by a public hospital, but runs the clinic at home outside of her normal working hours without obtaining a permit from the local health department, the representative said.
“As the clinic is not licensed, there’s no permit to be withdrawn and we don’t have the authority to terminate its operation either,” the health official said. “We will ask the police and local administration to step in if violations are discovered.”