Pediatric hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam, are having to use alternative medicines to treat hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in severe stages as they are facing a lack of drugs amid the rising numbers of patients.
Faced with this situation, the municipal Department of Health has asked the Ministry of Health to provide it with HFMD drugs as soon as possible, especially for severe cases.
The department said children’s hospitals are struggling with a shortage of intravenous phenobarbital and gamma-globulin for HFMD patients in critical conditions.
Dr. Nguyen Minh Tien, deputy director of the City Children’s Hospital, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday aid that the hospital has run out of intravenous phenobarbital and has had to use intravenous gamma globulin as an alternative.
However, only about 200 vials of intravenous gamma globulin have been left and they may not be enough for treatment in the near future as the number of HFMD has been on the rise, Dr. Tien warned.
Similarly, Dr. Du Tuan Quy, head of the Infection-Neurology Department of the Children’s Hospital No. 1, said that the hospital ran out of phenobarbital and is using gamma-globulin and intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) drugs as replacements.
The hospital has been forced to use oral phenobarbital instead of intravenous, with the treatment efficacy of the former lower, Dr. Quy said.
The city has recorded 157 HFMD cases during the week from May 22 to 28, up 47.1 percent compared to the average of the four previous weeks, and the cumulative number of HFMD cases as of week 21 this year is 1,670, the department reported.
Worryingly, the numbers of both HFMD inpatients and outpatients at the children's hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City have been on a sharp rise since two weeks ago, and one 5-year-old patient has died.
Some cases of severe HFMD cases have been found infected with Enterovirus 71, which spreads very quickly and causes many dangerous complications, the department said, adding that this virus killed more than 100 children in 2011.
Dr. Tien said that the numbers of both HFMD inpatients and outpatients at the City Children’s Hospital have increased over the past several days, with many child patients moved in from neighboring provinces.
The hospital was treating five severe HFMD cases, including three hailing from southern An Giang, Long An and Tien Giang provinces, and the number of outpatients has increased up to 20 cases per day, doubling that in the previous week, Dr. Tien said.
Dr. Quy said the Children’s Hospital No. 1 received two severe HFMD cases transferred in from a province on June 3 after treating another serious case earlier.
HFMD is common among young children and is transmitted through the gastrointestinal tract, thus it is important for children and their caregivers to practice good personal hygiene, the city’s Center for Disease Control (HCDC) stated.
Symptoms of the disease include mild or moderate fever, fatigue, sore throat, skin rash on palms, feet, knees, and buttocks, and sores on the lining of the cheeks, gums, and tongue.
Patients should be hospitalized if they suffer high fever that cannot be reduced by paracetamol, vomiting, convulsions, and an increased heart rate, the HCDC advised.