No new flu strains in Vietnam: health ministry

Vietnam has not detected any new influenza strains or mutations that increase toxicity or are drug resistant, said the Ministry of Health’s Preventive Medicine Department (PMD) on March 5. 

The department continued to say it has not uncovered any instances of the influenza type A strain H7N9 on poultry or humans after inspecting a number of vulnerable provinces and fowl trading centres. 

Reports from the national flu checkpoint system show that strain A/H3 prevailed in the first two months of 2015 (77.8%), followed by A/H1N1 and type B (11.1% each). Meanwhile, the influenza virus type B was prevalent in 2014 with 59%, followed by A/H3 (28%) and A/H1N1 (13%). 

Such shifts are common among seasonal flu strains, the PMD noted. 

Besides the launch of the national flu checkpoint system, the Ministry of Health recently established two national influenza centres at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi and the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City. 

It has also implemented a 2015 disease prevention plan while asking its Emergency Operations Centres to intensify supervision, closely monitor global disease development, and share related information with relevant international and domestic agencies in a timely fashion. 

The moves were made in response to warnings from the World Health Organisation regarding dangerous changes in flu strains. 

Vietnam recorded the first A/H5N1 cases in fowl and humans in December 2003. The virus has since spread and ignited a number of outbreaks causing severe health and economic damage. 

In February 2015, A/H5N1 was found in a flock of poultry in Dai Hai commune in Ke Sach district, southern Soc Trang province, but no human A/H5N1 patients have been seen thus far this year. 

The A/H5N1 virus claimed two lives in southern Binh Phuoc and Dong Thap provinces in 2014, bringing the number of A/H5N1 patients since 2003 to 127, including 64 deaths.