Health official alerts potential human bird flu infections

Vietnam would place itself in a scenario in which human bird flu infections could has been detected so as to take drastic actions to prevent the intrusion of avian influenza viruses that are raging in next-door neighbour China, said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long.

He made the request at a meeting on March 3 with the Steering Committee for the Prevention and Control of Dangerous and Emerging Diseases to discuss ways to prevent highly virulent bird flu viruses which are able to transmit to humans.

Deputy Director of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Department Hoang Minh Duc said Vietnam has yet to detect any A/H7N9 infections in poultry or humans. It hasn’t found any human A/H5N1 case from the outset of 2017.

According to the Preventive Medicine Department, the epidemic of A/H7N9 virus was first recorded in China in March 2013 and caused by avian influenza. It has been spreading quickly in the country since October 2016 with 449 people contracting A/H7N9 virus, including 96 deaths, in the first two months of 2017.

The A/H7N9 epidemic is hitting China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, which border seven Vietnamese provinces (Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Lang Son, and Quang Ninh). About 1,000 – 10,000 people and 100 – 200 vehicles travel between the two countries through the border gates at these Vietnamese localities each day.

Meanwhile, Vietnam recorded hotbeds of A/H5N1 virus in poultry in seven communes and wards of six districts and townships of central Nghe An province, Mekong delta Can Tho city, and southernmost Ca Mau province in 2016, said the Department of Animal Health under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Since the beginning of 2017, A/H5N1 has been spotted in farms in the southern provinces of Bac Lieu, An Giang, Soc Trang, Dong Nai, northern Nam Dinh province and central Nghe An province while A/H5N6 has been recorded in central Quang Ngai province.

Experts said some avian influenza viruses like H7N9, H5N2, and H5N8 that have yet to be reported in Vietnam may enter the country through smuggling as well as the trading and consumption of smuggled poultry or fowls with unclear origin, especially in northern border provinces.

At the meeting, Deputy Minister Long said the country has made strong moves to prevent bird flu, but the viruses are developing complicatedly in China and could appear in Vietnam.

Though a travel warning over bird flu has yet to be issued, people should consider restricting their travel to infected areas to avoid contracting the viruses, he added.-

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