An unusually large number of dengue fever infections have already been reported across Vietnam although the epidemic usually begins in September.
Health experts forecast that this year’s dengue fever outbreak is likely to affect a record number of patients as Vietnam continues to grapple with the mosquito-borne disease.
Over 5,000 patients infected with dengue fever have been reported so far in Hanoi, with two confirmed deaths from the disease, according to Hoang Duc Hanh, deputy director of the municipal Department of Health.
In some downtown districts of the Vietnamese capital, the number of known dengue fever cases is already ten times higher than the same period last year.
Ho Chi Minh City has reported a rise of nine percent in dengue fever patients so far this year compared to 2016, while the surge was 88 percent in the Mekong Delta region.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus, with symptoms that include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash.
Vietnam is among the countries most affected by the disease due to its favorable environment for the growth of the yellow fever mosquito, or Aedes aegypti, a vector for spreading the dengue virus.
According to Dr. Do Duy Cuong, head of the infectious diseases ward at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, the hospital has begun utilizing a room typically reserved for hepatitis in-patients to house dengue fever patients.
Nevertheless, bed-sharing is still common as the number of dengue-infected patients continues to rise beyond the hospital’s capacity, Cuong said.
At the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in the capital, around half of the hospital’s daily patient intake have contracted the dengue virus, according to its director Nguyen Van Kinh.
The infirmary has opened three new examination rooms specializing in dengue fever.
“With 1,000 beds and a staff of 280, we are straining ourselves to cope with the epidemic although only 10-20 percent of dengue patients need to be hospitalized at the moment,” Kinh said.
Kinh also noted a higher number of severe complications this year, including the development of life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever in four or five patients that had not been seen in previous outbreaks.
With the epidemic of dengue fever in Hanoi likely to continue until the end of 2017, the Vietnamese capital may see a record number of dengue patients this year, surpassing 2009 and 2015 peaks of 16,000 and 15,000 patients, respectively.
Higher temperature and more ongoing construction projects in Hanoi may be to blame for the early outbreak of dengue fever this year in the northern city, Hanh said.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the number of dengue fever patients admitted to the Hospital of Tropical Diseases between the 21st and 26th week of 2017 has increased by 100-150 compared to the same period of 2016, according to the hospital’s director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau.
There were twice as many dengue patients hospitalized during the 26th week of 2017 as the same week of 2016, Chua said.
Nguyen Thanh Long, Deputy Minister of Health, has asserted the unpredictability of the development of this year’s dengue fever outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces.
The southern metropolis has so far reported a year-on-year increase of nine percent in dengue fever cases, compared to the national average of 15 percent.
The outbreak began as early as May, while in previous years the typical epidemic season of dengue fever was between September and November, Long noted.
The highest increase in dengue fever patients was recorded in southern Tra Vinh Province, where nearly 800 patients have been diagnosed with the ailment, 88 percent more than 2016, according to the provincial Center for Preventive Medicine.
The rise in Can Tho City, Tien Giang Province and An Giang Province were 50 percent, 20.89 percent and 27.6 percent, respectively.