Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vietnam On The Brink Of New Bird Flu Epidemic

Vietnam's minister for agriculture has announced the country is on the brink of another bird flu epidemic.

The H5N1 virus has been found in chickens and ducks in 11 provinces. Experts find the outbreaks of the virus near the start of summer to be unusual. The virus is normally known to survive and thrive when temperatures are cooler. Warmer weather tends to weaken the virus' strength and ability to spread, and kill.

From Reuters :
Last week, the Southeast Asian country reported its first human case of H5N1 bird flu virus infection in a year and a half, a 30-year-old man in a province neighbouring Hanoi.

"The recent outbreaks were found mainly in waterflowl flocks that have not been vaccinated," Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat said in what was described as an urgent telegraph to People's Committees in all 64 provinces and cities.

"Now the development of the epidemic is very complicated. The risk of the epidemic's further development and spreading on a large scale is very high," Phat's message said.

It called for the vaccination of "100 percent of ducks".
Vietnam won praise from the World Health Organisation in 2004 and 2005 for taking "drastic steps" to halt he spread of the virus. Widespread poultry vacinnations were rolled out across the country and live birds were banned from sale in markets, a move that caused great consternation, but helped to halt the spread of H5N1.

In early 2006, after millions of birds were culled, or died from the virus, and it had claimed the lives of 42 people, the World Health Organisation announced that Vietnam was bird-flu free, and its fast-response emergency programs were hailed as a world standard on fighting the virus.

H5N1 "flared up repeatedly" earlier this year, mostly in rural areas.
The number of birds killed by the virus and slaughtered this month is more than 50,000 nationwide. The full economic impact might not be known for some months until the government compensates farmers for slaughtering their poultry, a World Bank economist said.

"The consequences will be much stronger in the winter," said Martin Rama, acting director of the World Bank in Vietnam.

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