VIETNAM : Encephalitis and meningitis have spread to most areas of the northern province of Son La, affecting more than 100 children and killing 13 of them so far this year, health authorities reported on Tuesday.
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Currently, the provincial capital Son La City and 10 out of the 11 districts of the province have been stricken by the two diseases, the provincial Health Department said.
Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the Hanoi-based Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said that health experts have taken samples from 73 of the more than 100 child patients for testing and 31 of them were positive with Japanese Encephalitis (JE), said.
Of these 31 kids, three had been vaccinated against JE, Hien added.
However, Lau Say Chu, director of the department, emphasized that the 13 dead children have died of encephalitis and meningitis, not of JE as earlier reported by many press agencies.
Chu affirmed that none of the dead children had tested positive for JE.
Hien also said four samples have been taken from 13 dead children for testing and all these samples came up negative for JE.
Chu warned that the JE symptoms include high fever, headache, feeling sick, vomiting, seizures, conscious disorder and coma.
The JE virus is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the Western Pacific, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
In preventing JE, the National Extended Vaccination Program and the local Health Department have decided to vaccinate all the children under 15 that have yet to receive vaccination against the two diseases in the province, Hien said.
When asked why many children have now contracted the deadly disease despite the provincial health authorities launching a vaccination drive against JE in 2007, Hien explained that in that year only 50 percent of local children were given vaccination due to a shortage of vaccine shots.