Babies at risk of whooping cough hinh anh 1Tran Dac Phu, head of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine(Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Tran Dac Phu, head of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine, speaks to the online VietnamPlus newspaper about the latest wave of whooping cough, which has killed five children.

Q: In the last two months, there have been more than 55 cases of whooping cough in Vietnam, mostly in children, according to the Department of Preventive Medicine. Five have died. How do you rate the development of the epidemic this year?

A: Whooping cough is a very strong and highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract, occurring more in cold, humid weather. 

We have been monitoring the disease since 2012, and the number of cases has increased slightly. On average, there are over 100 cases every year. In the first few months of this year there have been several dozen cases, but mainly in the cold and wet weather. This is a very weather-sensitive type of respiratory disease. This also explains why most cases occur in the North. They are mostly concentrated in the Ha Noi area and the outbreak does not appear widespread, but we still have to be alert.

Q: So is there anything special about the disease this year?

A: Most patients are children under 3 months old, as in the past. Most of them are under the age of immunisation or not yet fully immunised.

Q: What kind of solutions does the health sector have to deal with whooping cough?

A: The keys are early detection, isolation, and timely treatment to minimise mortality.

Our view is that treatment must first reduce the number of deaths, so that even if the number of those affected is high, people will not be overly worried.

Therefore, early detection is very important. Medical workers at commune, district and provincial levels should be able to diagnose the disease correctly and provide timely treatment to prevent complications.

Medical facilities need to be aware of cases, too, and avoid cross-contamination. Patients suspected of whooping cough should not be near other patients.

Q: What advice do you give to prevent whooping cough?

A: Over the past few years, thanks to good vaccination work, the number of whooping cough cases and diphtheria has decreased a lot. Parents should take their children to get vaccinated on time. For women of childbearing age who have never had whooping cough, the tetanus-pertussis-tetanus vaccine can be given to immunise mothers and their children. This vaccine is given to people aged 6-64.

According to the manufacturer, the vaccine can be used for pregnant women until the 20th week of pregnancy. However, the Ministry of Health is assigning the Drug Administration and the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation to review for specific guidelines.-VNA