HANOI, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The hand-foot-mouth (HFM) disease, a contagious viral illness that targets mostly infants and children, has affected over 10,000 Vietnamese people in the first two months of this year, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health (MOH)'s Preventive Health Department warned on Tuesday.
Nguyen Van Binh, head of the department told local media that the disease has spread to 60 out of the country's 64 provinces and cities, and in the past two weeks increased numbers of patients were reported in 28 provinces and cities.
Specifically, central Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Quang Ngai, northern Yen Bai and Tuyen Quang, and southern Soc Trang provinces, the number of infected patients increased by from 22 percent to 700 percent.
So far this year, averagely 1,000 new patients per week nationwide got infected by the disease, according to the department.
The HFM disease has some symptoms of fever and a rash most frequently seen on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and inside the mouth.
In Vietnam the most common strain is Enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which causes sores in the mouth and blisters on the hands and feet of patients.
The toxicity of the virus is very high, as proven in the death of a 4-month-old baby in southern An Giang province on February 28. The baby died just one day after contracting the virus, reported the department, adding that the same viral toxicity has been seen in Cambodia, where 54 children recently died within 24 hours of contracting the disease.
As many other countries and territories in the region, including Japan, China's Macau, South Korea, Singapore and Cambodia, have reported high numbers of new patients, the disease is forecast to continue spreading in Vietnam, with an estimated number of 100,000 new patients this year, said the health official.
In Vietnam, the HFM disease normally hits its peak during April to May and September to November periods.
The MOH instructed local authorities to popularize information of the disease, i.e. the disease can be transmitted though digestive tracts; there are no vaccines or specific medicines to combat the disease; children under five years old are most vulnerable to the disease; and the main preventive measures are following hygienic practices in eating, drinking and living.
The ministry plans to launch a national campaign to wash hands in April, besides efforts to improve environmental hygiene at schools, especially at kindergartens and pre-schools.
In 2012, HFM disease claimed 151,100 infected cases, up 41.3 percent year on year, of which 45 died, down 72.4 percent, according to the Vietnamese General Statistics Office.