The Ministry of Health is urging all parents to get their children properly vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis in time, stressing that the vaccine is being supplied free in all districts across the country.

Local reports have cited a ministry advisory as saying the vaccination should be done at least thrice: first when the child is a year old; the second one to two weeks after the first; and the last a year after the second shot. Subsequently, the vaccine should be administered every three to four years until the child is 15 years old.

Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the national immunisation programme, said that this year was the first time the vaccine against Japanese encephalitis was supplied free-of-charge in all districts in the nation's 63 provinces and cities. Last year it was supplied free to about 90 percent of the districts.

A total of 80,000 children in Hanoi received the vaccine last week.

According to the Ministry of Health's Department of Preventive Medicine, the country has recorded 319 cases of encephalitis and four deaths so far this year. Nine percent of the cases were Japanese encephalitis.

The National Paediatrics Hospital in the capital city has admitted 130 encephalitis patients this year, 36 of them suffering from Japanese encephalitis. Two of 36 patients have died.

To prevent the spread of this disease, the ministry has advised that people keep their homes clean, place livestock cages a good distance away from their homes and children, and use mosquito nets while sleeping.

Japanese encephalitis is caused by a mosquito-borne virus that can spread the disease throughout the year, but the peak season is summer. The disease is more common among children under 15. Pigs and birds are virus carriers. High fever, headache and nausea are early symptoms of the disease.-VNA