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HCMC hospitals swamped with dengue patients

Medical workers in Ho Chi Minh City are coping with a flood of dengue fever cases as the disease nears its peak.

While treating a female patient with severe dengue symptoms at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases on Tuesday, Dr. Vo Thanh Lam was informed another patient was bleeding from the mouth and required emergency aid.

Though the bleeding was stopped, the male patient remains in critical condition.

Doctor Vo Thanh Lam takes care of a dengue fever patient at the ICU of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in HCMC, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Anh

Dr. Vo Thanh Lam treats a dengue fever patient in the ICU of the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Anh

Transferred from neighboring Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province, the patient had twice experienced septic shock. He is currently the most severe dengue case in the hospital’s adult ICU.

Most patients here are in a coma, and require 24/7 assistance.

“We have to race against the clock to save them,” Lam said.

Yet the Hospital for Tropical Diseases has lost eight patients so far in the current dengue season, which started in southern Vietnam, including HCMC, in April.

In the past three weeks, the ICU has received around six-seven patients daily, placing medical workers under increased pressure, he noted.

On Tuesday afternoon, five patients experienced shortness of breath, abdominal pain, irritability, and low blood pressure, prompting a team of more than 10 ICU doctors and nurses to work at full capacity.

According to the HCMC Center for Disease Control (HCDC), the city had recorded 16,057 dengue fever cases in the year to June 19, up 117.3 percent over the same period last year, and nine have died.

At the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, dengue patients have filled the department of general internal medicine, with some placed in beds arranged along the hallway.

Le Manh Hung, the hospital’s deputy director, said the facility is the final destination for treating infectious diseases in the south, meaning it will receive the heaviest cases.

With a scale of 550 beds, the hospital currently treats 306 dengue fever patients. Of them, 44 are critical.

Every day, the hospital receives an average 200-300 people wanting their health checked after contracting dengue fever, with 50-60 admitted for treatment.

“The most concerning issue now is that many people come to the hospital only when their conditions have turned severe, including excessive vomiting and bleeding.”

Dengue fever patients stay in beds along the hallway of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in HCMC, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Anh

Dengue patients stay in the hallway of the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Anh

The city’s Children’s Hospital No. 1 has reported a similar situation.

As of June 9, it had recorded more than 1,400 hospital admissions after 4,400 dengue fever patients were brought over for health checks.

The number of hospitalizations is 1.5-2 times higher than the same period last year.

Nguyen Minh Tien, the hospital’s deputy director, said the hospital has been overloaded with dengue fever cases, with 11 in the ICU, 55 severe cases, and hundreds with mild symptoms.

Hospitals across the city have confirmed they can deal with the overload, and take in more patients.

HCMC authorities raised the alarm about the complicated development of dengue fever in late April.

The HCDC said with the southern region entering the rainy season, it is now the peak time for dengue fever. It warned people to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

In Binh Duong Province that borders HCMC, 4,867 dengue fever cases have been recorded from early April to June 11, up 17.6 percent against the same period last year. Of those cases, eight have died.

Vietnam has been trying to find an effective way to tackle dengue, one of the biggest killers of its 28 common infectious diseases. The only vaccine for it available globally is not recommended for people who have not had dengue before.

The World Health Organization says vector control is the key strategy to prevent transmission of the dengue virus.

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