Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan has asked local authorities throughout the nation to expand information dissemination activities that focus on methods to prevent the hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) in order to reduce the number of cases.

At a workshop held on Nov. 20 on enhancing methods to prevent the HFMD, Nhan said that children under five years old are at high risk of contracting the disease. Families with children at this age should focus on implementing the actions and be encouraged to maintain hygiene by washing hands regularly and cleaning toys, floors and the surrounding environment.

"Prevention is the most effective way to control the disease," he said.

Children under five years old account for 91 percent of the country's total number of patients with the disease, according to the Preventive Medicine Department.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that people's awareness of proper hygiene remains limited because awareness activities are not effective.

This is one of the main causes children become infected with the HFMD, she said.

Nhan also asked local authorities to work closely with health officials to strengthen inspections and control of the disease in order to prevent it from spreading.

Dr Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Preventive Medicine Department, reported that the number of patients with the disease nationwide has fallen since October.

In October, there were 16,987 new patients suffering from the HFMD throughout the country, while the number in September was 20,672.

In the first two weeks of November, 6,126 new cases were reported.

Eleven provinces and cities still have a high number of patients with the HFMD and it remains on an upward trend in some provinces including Thanh Hoa, Quang Ninh, Ninh Thuan and Khanh Hoa.

"It is urgent to implement preventive measures to combat the HFMD because the number of patients with the disease this year is 10 times higher than in previous years and 25 times higher when it comes to fatalities," Nhan said.

At the workshop, Tien said that the Ministry of Health will soon allocate more funds to ensure a sufficient supply of medicine to treat the HFMD.

"It is very necessary for local authorities to take part in HFMD prevention and treatment by prioritising the allocation of more funds for disease prevention, treatment and control," she said.

Tien also asked the Department of Health Examination and Treatment Management to offer additional HFMD treatment courses to health care providers nationwide, especially at provincial and local levels in order to improve their capacity to treat the disease.

The Preventive Medicine Department's report showed that the country had 90,189 cases of HFMD in first 10 months of this year, including 153 fatalities.

The southern provinces top the list with the highest number of the HFMD patients.

Former official at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology Nguyen Van Khai introduced the use of an anolyte solution to treat the disease two months ago. He said parents of children infected with the HFMD should have their kids bathe, gargle and apply their skin with a mixture of anolyte solution, salt, lemon juice and vitamin B1.

However, according to the health ministry's scientific advisory board, anolyte, an activated solution produced by electro-chemical activation, is a powerful disinfectant for external cleansing use only and should not be taken orally.

The use of an anolyte in treating HFMD patients proposed by Khai is more of a prophylactic treatment than a curative one, concluded the ministry on Nov. 20.

It said the anolyte has a very limited effect on cell nuclei and the nervous system while the main reason for severe complications requiring hospitalisation or even causing death is because the virus attacks cell nuclei and the nervous system.

Local media reported that a number of patients did get better by using this method but it has not been backed up by solid scientific evidence. /.