Roundup: Vietnam launches action plan against MERS

June 10, 2015 5:52 am 

HO CHI MINH CITY, June 9 — Vietnam's Health Ministry on Monday stated that the country is at high risk of seeing the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic coming from abroad, and put forth three scenarios to prevent and combat it.

On Monday, at an on-line conference on training hospitals nationwide about MERS surveillance, prevention and treatment, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said: "The risk of MERS coming to Vietnam is fairly high," the on-line version of local newspaper Sai Gon Giai Phong (Saigon Liberation) reported.

The Health Ministry has put forth three scenarios for localities nationwide to actively prevent and fight against MERS. The first scenario is that no MERS case is reported in Vietnam. If so, Vietnam will implement surveillance and preventive measures at hospitals and communities regarding cases of acute respiratory infections, people with flu symptoms or coming to Vietnam from MERS-hit countries. Any suspected cases will be immediately reported to higher level relevant authorities.

The second scenario is that MERS patients come to Vietnam. If so, the local health sector will timely identify and thoroughly isolate them to minimize the risk of seeing the disease spread to communities.

The third scenario is that MERS epidemic spreads to communities. If so, the local health sector will timely isolate infection cases, and actively treat patients to minimize the fatality rate and the disease's spread to communities, said Tran Dac Phu, Director of the Health Ministry's Preventive Medicine Department.

The Health Ministry also held a meeting with the Inter-sectoral Steering Committee for Disease Prevention and Control on Monday. The ministry announced that all four suspected cases of MERS in Vietnam have been tested negative to MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, the virus that causes MERS), the on-line version of local newspaper Tien Phong (Pioneer) reported.

Before being isolated and tested, all the four people came to Vietnam from MERS-hit regions, including the Middle East and had symptoms of fever and coughing.

Chairing the committee's meeting, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said MERS treatment guidelines have no changes, but hospitals have to check their medicines, equipment and facilities used to prevent the disease.

If suspected or confirmed cases of MERS are reported to come to Vietnam from foreign countries and regions, immediate isolation should be conducted, she said, noting that priorities should be given to isolating and monitoring suspected cases and preventing infections. Besides, public awareness about MERS prevention and treatment should be enhanced, especially at communes and wards.

The Health Minister highly appreciated the recent handling of suspected MERS cases coming to Vietnam through Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. "Localities should stay alert at the highest level, because the disease can enter our country. Each medical establishment should keep its staff and residents informed about potential situations," she said.

The Health Minister said relevant agencies should pay special attention to MERS situations in South Korea and movements of South Korean and Vietnamese people to Vietnam. Over 100,000 Vietnamese people currently live in South Korea, and many South Korean citizens work in or visit Vietnam.

On Monday evening, an official of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health told Xinhua that the city is intensifying surveillance at hospitals to timely detect, isolate and treat potential first MERS patients. At Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the city has already installed machines to measure temperatures of passengers, and asked them to fill in medical documents written in Vietnamese, English and Korean.

"Today, we have already proposed the municipal Tourism Department that it should ask hotels in the city to notify us about customers who arrive in the city from MERS-hit regions," the official said. The Health Department also proposed the municipal Police Department that it should help investigate and seek passengers who have been to the regions but their current addresses in the city are not right or unclear.

On Tuesday, the Preventive Medicine Center under the municipal Health Department will hold training sessions for the whole preventive medicine system about the MERS surveillance procedure, the official said, noting that Ho Chi Minh City sees nearly 2,000 passengers coming in from MERS-stricken countries, mostly from South Korea.

South Korea reported its sixth death from MERS on Monday, along with 23 new cases that brought the total number of people diagnosed with the disease in the country to 87, Yonhap reported. (PNA/Xinhua)

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