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The Vietnam News

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Bird flu suspected in Vietnam man’s death

HANOI - Vietnamese health officials said Wednesday they suspect bird flu might have killed a man in a northern province, which has also reported a new outbreak of the virus among poultry.

The 32-year-old man from mountainous Tuyen Quang province died on January 18, two days after he was admitted to Hanoi’s National Contagious and Tropical Diseases Hospital, said hospital director Nguyen Hong Ha. Initial tests on the patient, who suffered “serious pneumonia similar to H5N1 patients,” indicated he was infected with the virus, but the hospital was awaiting final test results, expected within days, Ha told AFP.

The Lao Dong (Labour) and Tuoi Tre (Youth) dailies said the man had eaten one of several chickens that had died near his house in Son Duong district. The national Animal Health Department meanwhile reported that the poultry outbreak in Tuyen Quang was confirmed Tuesday by the National Steering Committee for Avian Influenza Prevention and Control. The H5N1 virus was confirmed in three of 11 poultry samples taken in the Son Duong district, according to Animal Health Department chief Bui Quang Anh, and authorities had since culled poultry and disinfected the area.

The latest news means three Vietnamese provinces are now on the official bird flu watchlist, after northern Thai Nguyen and southern Tra Vinh also reported cases among birds within the past 21 days. The Tien Phong (Pioneer) newspaper also reported that tests in central Quang Binh province had found that over 1,000 ducklings from a flock of 1,700 unvaccinated birds died of H5N1 early this month. Communist Vietnam reported its last human death from bird flu in December when the virus killed a four-year-old boy, raising the country’s death toll to 47 since late 2003, the world’s second highest after Indonesia.

Northern Vietnam’s cold winter weather favours the spread of respiratory diseases because immune systems are weakened and people tend to spend more time indoors together, experts warn. Vietnam’s Health Ministry has cautioned the public to only buy poultry of clear origins ahead of the traditional Tet Lunar New Year festival in February, when poultry sales and consumption are expected to rise sharply.

The World Health Organisation has now confirmed 351 human cases of H5N1 worldwide, of whom 219 have died. The virus is mainly an animal disease, but scientists fear it could mutate to easily jump from human to human, sparking a deadly global pandemic.

Agence France Presse - January 23, 2007.