Contaminated school lunches blamed for tapeworm infections in hundreds of Vietnamese children

HANOI (DPA) - An outbreak of tapeworm infections among children in northern Vietnam has sparked fears that school lunches have been contaminated, state media reported on Monday (March 18).

Doctors have diagnosed the infections in 209 children from Thanh Khuong commune in Bac Ninh province, which borders Hanoi, the Vnexpress news site reported.

More than 800 children from 19 pre-schools have been tested since March 7 at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases and the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology in Hanoi, with medical authorities fearing more cases to come.

Infection was first suggested last month after cooks at the Thanh Khuong Kindergarten spotted larvae in the school lunch pork supply, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

When news of the suspected infections began to spread, parents began taking their children to Hanoi for testing in March, leading to positive test results that have spurred concern in the community. 

The source of the outbreak, however, has not been definitively confirmed and is currently under investigation.

The species of tapeworm, Taenia solium, is spread through contaminated food. While easily treated, it can cause brain damage and blindness if left unchecked.