While the health sector in HCM City is increasing efforts to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease, several nurseries have tried to conceal infections, fostering the spread of the disease.
The disease prevention and oversight by nursery schools in particular has proved ineffective
At a meeting between health officials and educators in HCM City on the issue on April 4, the municipal Department of Health said the city has so far this year recorded 1,836 children infected with the disease, including two fatalities.
The disease has plagued residents in nearly 70% communes and wards in the city, mainly in the outlying districts such as Thu Duc, Binh Chanh, Hoc Mon and District 12.
However, according to the department, the real figures could be even higher, as several child patients have not been admitted to hospital or received official medical attention.
Health Department official Le Manh Hung said, “Hand, foot and mouth disease mainly affects children aged below five, with those who attend school most likely to be infected. If no drastic measures are taken to heighten prevention efforts, the number of patients will multiply in the time to come. However, disease prevention and oversight by nursery schools in particular has proved ineffective.”
Between February 10 and March 23, the municipal Centre for Preventive Medicine had carried out inspections of 10 nurseries in the city. They detected 41 children in 16 classes infected with the disease, mainly in Districts 5, 7, and 8.
Disease prevention is proving a major challenge for senior teachers who lack of preventive measures. Many schools say that teachers aren’t really aware of how to recognise the symptoms; with some no longer remembering any training they received to recognise the disease. Some new teachers also lack any training on health issues at all.
While the health sector has been calling on schools to encourage teachers and students to wash their hand properly as an effective prevention method, many schools are ignoring even this basic advice, with some claiming they don’t even have soap.
Worse still, some schools have deliberately not mentioned infections, hindering the identification of disease hot-spots.
Doctor Nguyen Dac Tho, the centre’s Deputy Director, pointed out, “Many schools have tried to conceal infections as they are worried that if they admitted the problem, it would result in them temporarily closing and may cause panic among parents.”
Several schools complained that some parents continued to take their sick children to schools as they were unaware of the dangers posed.
Instead of admitting to ineffective prevention efforts, Nguyen Thi Minh Nguyet, Deputy Director of District 3’s Office of Education and Training, blamed the situation on the absence of special payments to teachers who could take part in preventative work.
“The education sector’s mission is to focus on education and training; however, over recent times, many teachers have had to work overtime on disease prevention. While medical officials are paid for taking part in the prevention campaign, teachers haven’t received any such allowance,” she said.
In order to deal with the problem, Nguyen Tan Binh, Deputy Director of the municipal Department of Health recommended that the centre and district offices of education and training propose the municipal government increase disease prevention funding.
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