Photo Credit – FAO
Vietnam has dealt with the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus for more than a decade, winning temporary battles, but never the war. In recent weeks we’ve seen a steady resurgence in the number of provinces reporting infected poultry, which I last blogged about on the Feb. 15th (see Vietnam: H5N1 Poultry Outbreaks Spread To 8 Provinces).
Although media sources are reporting a range of figures, today the Bernama news agency is reporting that the avian virus has spread to 21 provinces:
HANOI, Feb 26 (Bernama) - Bird flu has hit 21 provinces and cities across Vietnam with around 64,000 infected chickens culled, according to latest statistics from the Animal Health Department.
The number of birds killed in the central province of Khanh Hoa and the northwestern province of Lao Cai has reached almost 20,000, members of the National Steering Committee for Bird Flu Prevention and Control heard at a meeting here on Wednesday.
Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reports the outbreak was attributed to the complicated weather in the first two months of the year, and the increase in shipping and trading of poultry during the recently-ended Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.
(Continue . . .)
Complicating matters, less than a month ago we learned that the H7N9 virus had shown up in Guangxi Province, expanding its range southward, and moving it closer to Northern Vietnam (see Guangxi Province Reports Their First H7N9 Case).
Today, veteran science writer Declan Butler has a cautionary piece appearing in Nature News on Vietnam’s vulnerability to this new avian threat, and the steps they are taking to combat it. Follow the link below to read:
H7N9 avian influenza may spread from China for first time.
26 February 2014
The H7N9 avian-influenza virus that has killed more than 100 people in China in the past year has for the first time been detected in a province bordering Vietnam, raising the prospect that the disease may take hold across Asia and beyond. It was found in poultry in the live-bird markets of southern China’s Guangxi province in late January, and has caused three known human cases in the region.
The news comes as a surge in human H7N9 flu cases in China since the start of the year shows signs of abating, possibly because of the reintroduction of control measures. Vietnam, which had already prepared response plans for such an H7N9 outbreak, has placed itself on high alert. “There is a very high likelihood of H7N9 entering the poultry sector in Vietnam,” says Peter Horby, a researcher at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi.
In a related story, Thanh Nien News is reporting:
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 10:24
Vietnamese health authorities have expressed concerns over the lack of equipment to cope with the possible outbreak of the new virulent H7N9 strain of bird flu.
Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien told an online conference Sunday that nine of the 28 thermometers at border gates across the country used for anti-bird flu work are currently out of order.
Meanwhile, H7N9 can enter the country at any time, she said.
According to a representative from the US Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the shut-down of poultry markets in China has led to poultry being sold to other countries at low prices, while it is difficult for Vietnam to control the imports of poultry via the border with China.
Takeshi Kasai, World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Vietnam, said H7N9 can enter Vietnam via smuggled poultry or humans.
Authorities in Lang Son Province, which borders China, said they are maintaining 14 checkpoints to control the import of poultry around-the-clock at border areas.
Currently, 17 provinces around Vietnam have reported outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Given the history of a porous border with China, considerable illicit poultry trade, and the devastating effects from the introduction of the H5N1 virus more than a decade ago, Vietnamese officials are understandably on guard against this new virus.
The history with avian flu viruses has been, that once they become entrenched in a region’s poultry population, they can be extraordinarily difficult to eradicate.
And while H5N1 and H7N9 are currently the two viruses that are viewed with the most concern, we’ve seen evidence of other novel reassortants appearing in Chinese poultry (H10N8, H5N5, even a new version of H7N7, etc) which conceivably could eventually spread beyond their borders as well.