The recent unusual weather in Ho Chi Minh City has created favourable conditions for seasonal diseases like mumps, chickenpox, measles and hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) to spread among children and adults, particularly in schools.

This will be one of the targets of a national programme on disease prevention approved by the Prime Minister last Friday.

According to the programme, 100 per cent of municipal and provincial education and training departments would have staff specialising in school health care by 2015, with 85 per cent of tertiary educational institutions and vocational training schools having healthcare centres and 60 per cent of schools having spare rooms for student healthcare centres.

The programme has also set a goal for 80 per cent of the healthcare centres and rooms to have adequate medicines and equipment as regulated by the Ministry of Health.

Most centres will be able to provide check-ups for students annually. Schools that have healthcare staff, all students will receive initial healthcare services and have the histories recorded.

To reach the targets, the Prime Minister has ordered relevant ministries and agencies to make policies on health care at educational institutions, as well as budget allocations for the programme.

Raising students' awareness on healthcare and disease prevention was also among the tasks.

Health authorities have said that they expect cases of these diseases to rise in the coming weeks.

According to a report released recently by HCM City's Department of Health, 20 people, including two teachers in Hoa Mi Kindergarten in District 12, were suspected to have caught mumps.

Blood tests done by the Pasteur Institute found that nine children were positive for the virus. The city's Preventive Health Centre had the school and toys sterilised with Cloramin B.

A representative from Children's Hospital No 1 said that more than 20 children with the HFMD were being treated everyday at the hospital.

So far this month, hundreds of students in HCM City have had to stop studying or be rushed to hospitals after contracting one or more of the seasonal diseases in the outlying districts of 12, Tan Phu and Thu Duc in the last month.

Dr Truong Huu Khanh of Children's Hospital No 1 told a seminar at the Pasteur Institute that around 80 per cent of the children in the city had the potential to contract chickenpox.

He said the disease often occurred in March and April. Children from one to 10 years old were most susceptible, and 80 to 90 per cent of the children had yet to be vaccinated against the disease. Meningitis would also be a problem, Khanh said.

Bernama - March 31, 2009