Saturday, December 30, 2006

Central Vietnam facing imminent bird flu threat

About 73 percent of poultry samples came back positive for H5N1 virus in the central province of Quang Nam, reported an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Friday.

Hoang Van Nam, deputy head of the ministry’s Animal Health Department said the result had put the central region on red alert for bird flu outbreaks.

The seasonal migration of birds and cool weather create a ripe environment for the virus to spread, especially as H5N1 has already been found in poultry, Nam warned.

To date the disease has spread to 10 communes in six districts in three Mekong Delta provinces namely Bac Lieu, Ca Mau and Hau Giang.

Hau Giang’s animal health department said they had quarantined and sterilized infected sites to isolate the outbreak.

Within the last several days in Bac Lieu, relevant agencies had slaughtered thousands of poultry and inoculated another 170,000 fowl.

In Ca Mau and Soc Trang, six people were isolated with bird flu symptoms after eating chicken, and local health centers had taken their samples for tests.

China crisis

Ho Chi Minh City’s market control bureau said illegal poultry trade and transport had increased considerably with 106 cases, more than three-fold those from last week.

In the northern province of Lang Son, poultry trafficking from China was exploding with hundreds of tons of fowl illegally transported into Vietnam daily, which local authorities could not fully control.

Officials said poultry smuggling flared up because domestic fowl prices were rising while smuggled fowl from China was much cheaper.

They added smugglers could benefit substantially from their business, especially in months ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday when fowl demand peaks.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung assigned 11 relevant ministers to be heads of bird flu control task forces in regions nationwide.

Tran Thi Trung Chien, Health Minister launched Friday a nationwide campaign for January, urging people to sanitize the environment, especially in poultry breeding farms to control the outbreak.

Under the campaign, localities were guided to keep surveillance on poultry trade and transport, especially at border check points.

Local health centers were ordered to prepare medicines for the fight against avian influenza in humans in the event of an outbreak and increase food hygiene inspections.

Since the virus first arrived in Vietnam in late 2003, it has killed 42 of the 93 people infected, second only to Indonesia's 57, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO said the influenza had killed more than 150 people worldwide since late 2003, and prompted the slaughter of tens of millions of poultry.

Source: Thanh Nien

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