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Number of Zika Cases in Saigon Jumps to 17, Total of 23 Infections Nationwide

The number of confirmed Zika cases in Saigon has climbed to 17, making the southern hub a hotspot for the mosquito-borne disease.

Vietnam now has at least 23 cases of Zika, according to a study by the Pasteur Institute’s epidemiology center, reports VnExpress. Saigon authorities declared the situation a health emergency after the first few cases of the disease were reported last April.

Tran Dac Phu, director of the Preventive Health Department under the Ministry of Health, shared with the news outlet that Saigon’s large population of 12 million people, including migrants, makes it more susceptible to contagious diseases. He added: “The hygiene [in the city] is not very good.”

Last month, Saigon declared a Zika outbreak in District 2's An Phu Ward and Hiep Thanh Ward in District 12. Health experts also predicted that Zika infections are likely to spread to Hanoi and northern provinces in the near future.

Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the Municipal Health Department, told VnExpress in an earlier interview that the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitos – the vector species of the Zika virus – has increased significantly in the city due to the rainy season.

Aedes aegypti mosquitos are also carriers of dengue and yellow fever. Compared to last year, the number of dengue cases this year has reportedly increased by 19% to 14,000 cases. Binh said that Binh Chanh, Hoc Mon and Thu Duc Districts are highly susceptible to mosquito-borne illnesses.

In October, Vietnam also reported its first case of Zika-linked microcephaly, in Dak Lak Province. The baby was born to a 23-year-old E De woman who had reported symptoms of Zika but did not get tested; the infant later exhibited signs of the birth defect.

Meanwhile, health officials have cautioned Saigoneers against traveling to affected areas, especially those who plan to have children. According to NPR, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that pregnant women shouldn’t travel to Southeast Asia, and both men and women should wait at least six months after returning from Zika-infected regions before trying to have a baby.

[Photo via Flickr user turkletom]

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