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Rubella Outbreak Grips Vietnam

Vietnam is badly hit by a rubella epidemic, with more than 6000 people infected with the disease. Schools and factories seem to be worst affected//, said a Government health official.

‘The number of people infected with rubella this year has reached 6,000,’ said Pham Ngoc Dinh, deputy director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

One of the largest outbreaks has been in Ho Chi Minh City's manufacturing zone, which houses factories that produce items for export. Workers live in dormitories and work in close proximity to one another, allowing the communicable disease to spread easily.

Health officials said 30 out of 100 companies that operate in the industrial park have been affected.

On Tuesday alone, 28 new cases were diagnosed. Since April, a total of 431 cases have been reported.

Rubella, or German measles, is a virus marked by fevers and rashes. Symptoms normally pass in about a week.

‘Rubella is only dangerous if contracted by pregnant women,’ said Nguyen Van Nghiem, an official with the department of health in Ho Chi Minh City.

‘A high percentage - between 50 to 70 percent - will give birth to babies with physical deformities,’ feared the official.

Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology is asking the government to consider expanding its vaccination programme in the country of 84 million people to include rubella.

The current vaccine, MMR-25, is imported from the US and costs nearly $8 a dose - an amount equivalent to several days' pay for factory workers.

‘We are proposing that the ministry of health to add this vaccine to the National Expanded Vaccination Programme, under which the vaccine will be free,’ said Nguyen Huu Tam, an institute official.


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