A measles outbreak sweeping through Vietnam is now blamed for 108 deaths, many of them children, far more than the 25 reported by the Health Ministry just last week.

Vietnam however, has yet to declare the disease an epidemic despite an online outcry and appeals from health experts, including doctors who met with the minister of health on Wednesday.

The director of Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Nguyen Tran Hien, says in an interview with VOA's Vietnamese service that an annoncement of an epidemic can only be made based on criteria that have not been met yet.

"The outbreak is still controllable, the rate of incidents is not high, about 3,000 cases confirmed, which is not high compared to Vietnam’s population of almost 90 million and compared to other regional countries," said Tran Hien.

Hien called on people to calm down and follow guidelines from local health agencies.  Most importantly, he said, was to have children vaccinated.

Some health experts have called for an epidemic to be declared, saying a delay may lead to a lack of vigilance among the public and contribute to the spread of the disease.  A World Health Organization official in Hanoi is quoted by Vietnam's state media as suggesting the current outbreak be listed as an "emergency" and as "critical."

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.