Bird flu kills a Vietnamese, emergency plan at work
The deadly bird flu virus, now feared heading for Europe, has killed a Vietnamese, taking the number of deaths in Asia from the disease to 63, a senior official said on Thursday.
The victim, whose gender was not disclosed, died from acute Pneumonia on Sunday and tests showed the H5 component of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in the body, the Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Deputy Health Minister Trinh Quan Huan as saying.
The victim was from Soc Son, a district on the outskirts of Hanoi, but the government has not spotted any outbreaks in poultry in August, Huan said.
The death was announced as Agriculture and Health Ministry officials said they were finalizing details of an emergency plan to tackle a flu pandemic, which international health officials fear could erupt if the H5N1 virus mutates.
Now, it cannot pass easily from human to human, but the World Health Organization has been warning for more than a year that the virus could mutate into a form that could do so.
If that happens, millions of people without immunity could die, it says.
The WHO has urged governments to prepare for such an eventuality. Vietnam, which has had more human deaths from the H5N1 virus than anywhere else, was preparing plans for various scenarios, the state-run Tien Phong newspaper reported.
“Vietnam is vaccinating poultry so there is a great infection risk involving the H5N1 virus jumping from poultry to humans,” the newspaper quoted the Health Ministry as saying.
There have been no reports so far of people contracting the virus from vaccinated poultry.
Animal health officials said they were meeting on Thursday to review the vaccination campaign using Chinese and Dutch vaccines in the provinces of Nam Dinh and Tien Giang.
This month, the government will expand the vaccination campaign to target 60 million fowl at small-scale farms nationwide, said Anton Rychener, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Vietnam.
The government aims to complete vaccinations by November 15, before the onset of winter when the virus seems to thrive best.
The latest human death took Vietnam’s bird flu toll to 44, with 23 of the victims dying since the virus returned in December 2004, after sweeping through much of Asia in late 2003.
It has also killed at least 12 people in Thailand, four in Cambodia, three in Indonesia and has struck six Russian regions and Kazakhstan, causing the deaths of nearly 14,000 fowl.
The FAO said on Wednesday that migrating birds posed a serious risk of spreading avian flu around the world, including Western Europe.
The spread into central Asian and toward eastern Europe has fueled fears about the mobility of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain.
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