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Child respiratory infections rising across southern Vietnam

Child respiratory infections rising across southern Vietnam

Thursday, November 23, 2023, 15:26 GMT+7
Child respiratory infections rising across southern Vietnam
A doctor examines a child at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Xuan Mai / Tuoi Tre

Health authorities have reported an increase in respiratory infections among children in Vietnam’s southern provinces and cities from October compared to previous months, a trend typically observed toward the end of every year.

The significant influx of children with respiratory diseases has prompted children’s hospitals to expand their bed capacity and bolster medical personnel.

Since early October, respiratory diseases have topped 1,100 cases among the daily average visits of nearly 2,000 pediatric patients at Can Tho Children’s Hospital in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam, the hospital said on Tuesday. 

Doctor Ong Huy Thanh, deputy director of the hospital, noted that pediatric patients have been primarily hospitalized for pneumonia, bronchial asthma, and severe respiratory infections.

During peak times, up to 200 cases require hospitalization per day, necessitating shared beds in some instances.

Therefore, the hospital’s respiratory department has added around 180 beds. 

The hospital also arranges for patients to stay temporarily in other departments with lower patient numbers to alleviate the crowding. 

Certain areas are designated for patients at risk of cross-infection to minimize the spread of illnesses.

Encouragingly, in the past week, the hospitalizations for pediatric respiratory infections have decreased, averaging out at around 130 cases per day.

In Ho Chi Minh City, despite a possible gradual drop in respiratory cases in children during this period each year, the current numbers remain high compared to previous years, according to Dr. Tran Anh Tuan, head of the respiratory ward at Children’s Hospital 1 in District 10.

Tuan added that kids from other provinces represent 60 percent of the total cases in his department.

The doctor emphasized that people often focus solely on cough symptoms, while the severity of a respiratory disease does not necessarily align with the intensity of coughing.

He explained that excessive coughing does not necessarily indicate a serious illness, and minimal coughing does not imply a mild ailment. 

Tuan advises parents to observe how the child breathes at home instead, particularly noting any rapid breathing, as it can be an early sign of pneumonia.

Furthermore, parents should be vigilant for other symptoms such as fever, headache, a runny nose, and critical signs associated with respiratory diseases, including lethargy, difficulty waking up, reluctance to breastfeed or poor feeding in the case of newborns, vomiting, or an inability to consume any liquid for two-month-old infants, convulsions, and cyanosis.

According to Tuan, a positive sign is the majority of parents promptly seeking hospital treatment for their children.

Overall, the city’s pediatric experts report that the morbidity and mortality rates due to severe pneumonia in children in the southern region have not shown significant changes in recent years.

Most pediatric patients succumbing to respiratory diseases have pre-existing chronic conditions, such as premature birth, low birth weight, chronic lung disease, birth defects, and immunodeficiency.

Northern region

Last week, a sudden drop in temperature in the northern region reduced the ability of the elderly and young children to protect their airways, leading to a climb in the number of patients with respiratory diseases.

In several hospitals, the number of children admitted for respiratory-related treatment has doubled compared to over a month ago.

Doctor Vu Minh Dien, deputy head of the department of general internal medicine at the National Hospital For Tropical Diseases (NHTD) in Hanoi, explained that the cold weather provides favorable conditions for respiratory disease-causing viruses and boosts their virulence.

The viruses easily infiltrate congested throats, leading to diseases at various levels, particularly bronchopneumonia in young children and pneumonia in the elderly.

Notably, a significant number of elderly people have been hospitalized with acute respiratory infections. 

Aside from those with a history of respiratory diseases, many patients are admitted in severe conditions following self-treatment at home.

Besides grappling with respiratory diseases, Hanoi maintains a high nationwide tally of dengue fever cases. 

Last week, the Vietnamese capital city recorded 2,530 dengue fever cases, down 60 from the preceding week.

Forecasts indicate that the dengue fever situation in the city will continue to evolve, with a potential jump in cases in the coming weeks, entailing a heightened risk of more severe cases and fatalities.

Doctor Nguyen Trung Cap, deputy director of NHTD, emphasizes the importance of testing for dengue fever for individuals exhibiting fever symptoms. 

“Complications of dengue fever can swiftly develop after the fever subsides, resulting in low platelets and dengue shock,” Dr. Cap warned. 

“Timely treatment is crucial to prevent fatalities."

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