Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien has required hospitals and clinics nationwide to take extra measures to curb outbreaks of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) as least as possible.

The efforts aim to reduce the number of fatalities from the disease, which has killed 18 people so far this year.

The Minister instructed health care facilities to promptly tackle remaining shortcomings and focus on training for doctors and nurses who have been directly involved in providing treatment and care for HFMD patients.

She noted that hospital directors should ensure adequate staffing by doctors and nurses, particularly at night when a high rate of fatalities was due to a lack of patient care.

Increasing information dissemination about the disease to raise public awareness, particularly among mothers, was also essential, said Tien.

Local health clinics at localities should report to their People's Committees in case of a shortage of medicine and equipment to ensure supplies meet demand for treatment, she added.

Inspection on HFMD prevention and treatment at localities by health ministry officials last month found that many localities still paid little attention to disseminating related information about the disease, including its symptoms.

Meanwhile, some localities had to cope with poor health care facilities and a lack of equipment, particularly in southern An Giang and Dong Thap provinces. The two provinces suffered the worst rate of fatalities due to the disease, with four deaths recorded in An Giang and two deaths in Dong Thap.

However, the minister admitted that HFMD was a serious disease with outbreaks developing in a complicated and unusual way, causing difficulties for treatment and diagnosis.

By the end of March, 21,295 cases of HFMD were reported nationwide, according to statistics released by the ministry's Preventive Medicine Department.

The number of cases rose by 9.1 percent against the same period last year, while the number of fatalities was three times higher than last year's figures-VNA