Although Vietnam has yet to report the incursion of H7N9 into their country, the recent surge in human cases in neighboring China - and their own recent spate of H5N1 & H5N6 outbreaks in poultry - have both public health and agricultural officials on high alert.
While we've seen dire warnings in the Vietnamese press before, overnight those reports have reached a new crescendo, with headlines reading:
Urgently prevent bird flu - Vietnam Television Station
Vietnam raised the alert for bird flu - Voice of VietnamMeasures for prevention of bird flu spreading to humans In-Depth - Youth
The source of this increased level of consternation appears to be the report of a meeting just held by Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture (MARD), discussing the permeability of their nearly 1300 km border with Southern China, and the steps they are taking to secure it.
In particular focus, the province of Ha Giang.
I've posted the translated statement from the MARD website (bolding mine).
Ha Giang: Deploy drastic prevention and control of avian influenza
(Mard-3/3/2017): According to reports from the Ministry of functional departments, the current Chinese side appeared H7N9 flu in poultry. This type of flu in poultry has the ability to spread to humans. Besides, in our country, as of 28/2, has appeared 08 outbreaks in 6 provinces, including Nam Dinh, Bac Lieu, An Giang, Dong Nai, Soc Trang and Quang Ngai with over 13,000 birds infected.
Besides, Ha Giang, a province bordering China border stretches for more quota is very difficult to control. Although, as reported by the functional departments, to the present time, in the province of Ha Giang have not seen an outbreak of bird flu yet, but there are fears of H7N9 bird flu in Ha Giang huge by trafficking, smuggling of poultry and poultry products from China to Ha Giang through unofficial border complicated and very difficult to control.
Besides, the employees of the Ha Giang border employee may also be a source of spread of pandemic influenza in humans. In addition, the quantity of poultry from the delta provinces of Ha Giang put up quite a large consumption.
Before bird flu situation in the country and the complicated Chinese, Agriculture and Rural Development has advised the Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee issued the directive documents 11 districts and cities in the province to all active in the prevention of avian influenza H7N9; Accordingly, the district, the city should fully prepare instruments, sterilization chemicals, people and vehicles for use in the prevention of epidemic. The district, the city urgently implement and consolidate established Steering Committee avian flu. It is strictly forbidden to transport, trade, slaughter poultry and poultry products across borders during an epidemic.
In order to be active in the prevention of avian influenza, on 27/2, Ha Giang Province People's Committee held a meeting online for the district, the city on the work of implementing the prevention of avian influenza. To improve efficiency in the prevention of avian influenza, Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee has directed all levels and relevant departments should concentrate in the prevention of avian influenza. Determined not to import poultry and poultry products from China into the province until declare epidemic. For other types of poultry and poultry products in the country being put into consumption in the province must originate, clear origin and must have a secure quarantine.
Besides, Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee has instructed the forces to strengthen border patrol and control to promptly stop the trade, movement of poultry across borders; Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee has directed the departments of Customs, Health, Industry and Trade, Police urgently implement the provisions of the central and provincial on preventing trafficking in cattle, poultry across borders. Besides, Ha Giang Province People's Committee also directed the authorities and relevant agencies need effective solutions for the management of free labor from China to return to prevent bird flu spread people.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Tien, Vice Chairman of Ha Giang Province said, To actively and promptly prevent bird flu in the province, Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee has assigned the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to advise the Committee provincial establishment of joint working groups to examine and control in the border areas, bordering areas, sensitive areas of trade, transport and smuggled poultry ...
While I've not found an official notice, according to a (translated) report this morning in the Voice of Vietnam, - the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has proposed raising the epidemic alert to a higher level (Level 2).
Friday, 16:18, 03/03/2017
VOV.VN-Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development proposed raising the epidemic alert to a higher level, does not stop at level 1 again.
3/3 morning in Hanoi, a meeting of the Steering Committee for prevention of avian influenza virus strains virulent in humans, with the participation of several ministries, central agencies and Hanoi. Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long presided over the meeting.
According to Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, the most concern is the avian flu virus AH7N9 infected will not show any signs of illness should easily cause psychological subjectivity. Additionally, AH7N9 flu epidemic are complex developments in China, the price of poultry in the country will decrease, leading to the risk of illegally imported into Vietnam.
Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Long stressed: "I suggest raising the epidemic alert to a higher level, does not stop at level 1 again. We have had cases considered intrusive to deploy the bulk of the preventive measures. I also request the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had raised the alert level to a higher service, to respond appropriately. We said that preventing the illegal import thorough poultry AH7N9 flu prevention requires stronger, more determined and aggressive. If influenza AH7N9 intrusion into Vietnam, they will have to destroy a lot of poultry and livelihoods, people's health is also affected. "
AH7N9 flu virus before the situation in China is evolving, changing from low virulence genes into highly pathogenic, the World Health Organization said in March it would support Vietnam rapid diagnosis for rapid testing AH7N9 flu for those suspected infection or those who regularly come into contact with poultry at the border gate in Lang Son and Ha Vi bird market (Thuong Tin, Ha Noi) ./.
Vietnam - which in the middle of the last decade had the world's worst H5N1 human infection rate - managed to beat back that epidemic through a campaign of aggressive culling, poultry vaccination, and public education.
Vietnam's hard won victory has been tenuous at best, with occasional human cases and a sporadic poultry outbreaks reported over the past decade.
No country knows better how hard it is to dig yourself out of an avian flu epidemic. An experience that undoubtedly prompts their strenuous and proactive response to the H7N9 threat on their border today.