The ministry made the warning on May 8 after mysterious acute hepatitis cases were recently detected in several Southeast Asian countries.
The ministry has asked health facilities to keep updated and analyse the epidemiology of the acute hepatitis, which has been reported in 20 countries.
It has also asked local authorities and health facilities to assess infection risks of the new disease and propose action plans to bring it under control.
Parents whose children are aged between one month to 16 years old must pay extra attention to their children and take them to hospitals for further examination if they show symptoms of the disease, such as nausea, vomiting, belly pain, dark urine, and yellow discolouration of the skin.
Previously, the ministry’s Department of Preventive Medicine had asked the Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Nha Trang Pasteur Institute, HCM City’s Pasteur Institute, and the Central Highlands Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology to strengthen vaccination against hepatitis B in infants, children under one-year-old and high-risk children.
The HCM City’s Department of Health has requested medical facilities, especially pediatric hospitals, to strengthen the detection of acute hepatitis in children.
Hospitals needed to consult with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) to collect information and samples and conduct PCR testing to find infectious agents.
According to the World Health Organization, acute hepatitis of unknown origin has occurred in children aged 1-month-old to 16 years old, who have shown symptoms including jaundice, nausea, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
Most cases do not register fever or a common virus that causes acute viral hepatitis, but nearly 10 per cent of severe cases require liver transplantation.
The cause of the disease in children remains unknown, according to the World Health Organization. However, scientists are exploring the possibility that an adenovirus may be responsible.
The WHO and ECDC are supporting countries with ongoing investigations and collecting information from the countries reporting cases.
Among 169 cases of suspected acute child hepatitis found by April 21, a total of 74 have been detected with adenovirus.
As of May 7, there are 278 suspected cases detected in 20 nations, including five deaths.
Tran Minh Dien, director of the National Children's Hospital, said the hospital had recorded a number of cases of liver damage, but it was related to children with the multi-system inflammatory syndrome following COVID-19 infection.
No cases of isolated liver damage or adenovirus-associated liver damage had been reported so far.
Nguyen Nguyen Huyen, head of the Kim Chung facility of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases Medical Examination Department, said doctors were trying to detect early signs and symptoms of suspected hepatitis in children among those who come for a health examination.
Huyen said adenovirus was not new in Vietnam and there were many medical units that could test for this virus.
The National Hospital for Tropical Diseases had equipped a standard test system and the test results had been recognised in more than 130 countries.
However, the doctor said, if the mysterious disease was caused by a mutant strain, it would be difficult to test the virus based on conventional techniques.
“We still need to wait for more information from world experts to find out whether a mutation occurs. Based on that, there is a specific gene segment to test to find the exact cause of the mysterious hepatitis,” she said.
“There is no scientific evidence for the suspicion that adenovirus is related to SARS-CoV-2.”
According to Huyen, based on the description of symptoms of the disease, children suffer from abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhoea initially, followed by loss of appetite, yellow eyes, jaundice, yellow urine and liver failure.
There is a high possibility that the mysterious hepatitis agent is transmitted through the blood and the gastrointestinal tract.
She recommended that children have proper nutrition and be fully vaccinated according to the national immunisation programme and increase outdoor physical activities.
Parents should send children to hospital for examination when they show suspicious signs.