Vietnam has recorded its first cholera death during an outbreak that has spread to 11 out of 63 provinces and cities across the communist nation, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old victim from northern Ninh Binh province died on May 12 a few hours after hospitalisation, said a Ministry of Health website report.
The victim was an alcoholic who tested positive for vibrio cholera bacteria. He had diarrhea and serious dehydration, the ministry said.
It added that a total of 53 patients have been confirmed with cholera since April 20, while more than 500 others had acute diarrhea.
In March and April last year the country battled cholera outbreaks which hit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and 16 other provinces. More than 100 people were infected but no fatalities were reported.
Vietnam has a long standing problem with food safety and hygiene.
Authorities in Hanoi have temporarily closed at least a dozen dog slaughterhouses, where the popular meat is prepared, over fears their unhygienic conditions may help spread cholera bacteria to people, an official said Monday.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection transmitted through water or food contaminated with the bacteria vibrio cholera. It causes diarrhea and dehydration and can lead to kidney failure and death if untreated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says cholera can be easily avoided through good hygiene, especially by washing hands with soap after using the toilet.
The WHO on Tuesday referred to a 2006 survey of rural sanitation that found only 12 percent of people washed their hands before eating, 15.5 percent washed after urinating, and 16.9 percent cleaned their hands after defecating. The survey was carried out by Vietnam's Department of Preventative Medicine and Environment.
Bacteria from the faeces of a contaminated person are one of the main sources of cholera contamination, the WHO says.
As part of its joining the World Trade Organization two years ago, Vietnam's food safety needs to adapt to international standards, WHO said.
"Coordination of activities to ensure safe practices into the entire food chain is a challenging task for Vietnam's government," it said.