Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

H5N1 virus claims second Vietnamese victim in 10 days

AFP , HANOI

A 28-year-old woman has died of bird flu in Vietnam, the second person there to succumb to the deadly H5N1 strain in just 10 days, after one-and-a-half years with no deaths, an official said yesterday.

She died on Wednesday, two weeks after being admitted to a Hanoi hospital that specializes in tropical diseases, said the director of the state-run National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Her death brings to 44 the number of people who have died of bird flu in Vietnam. Last weekend authorities reported the death of a 20-year-old man, who was the first fatality to be announced since November 2005.

Since last month, five human cases of bird flu have been reported in Vietnam. Two others who had contracted the virus have already been released from hospital.

Vietnam, once the nation worst hit by avian influenza, contained earlier outbreaks through mass vaccination campaigns, the culling of millions of poultry, and public education campaigns.

But the virus has come back strongly this year, hitting scores of poultry farms in an unusual summer-time outbreak, especially in the densely populated northern Red River delta region in recent weeks.

Avian influenza outbreaks have been reported since early last month in 18 of Vietnam's 64 provinces and municipalities, mostly among unvaccinated ducks and other waterfowl.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently blamed the surge on a rise in unvaccinated ducks grazing in newly harvested rice paddies after Vietnam in March lifted restrictions on waterfowl hatching.

Experts warn that ducks can be "silent carriers" of bird flu, spreading the virus through their feces as they roam across rice fields and ponds while seldom showing symptoms of illness themselves.

The FAO warned Vietnam must ensure good surveillance and response mechanisms, that vaccination campaigns must match breeding cycles and that hatcheries, slaughterhouses and markets must be clean.

Worldwide, the virus has killed 191 people out of 313 infected patients, according to the latest World Health Organization toll dated June 15.

Experts fear the death toll would multiply rapidly if the virus were to mutate and become easily transmitted between humans.

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