Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Mekong bird flu may be spreading to nearby province

CONCERN Vietnam, which earlier this year claimed to have stamped out avian flu, appears to be facing a new round of trouble with its fowl

DPA , HANOI

A day after agricultural officials said that bird flu had re-emerged in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, officials yesterday announced another suspected outbreak in a nearby province.

Test results have not yet confirmed that the relatively small number of bird deaths were caused by the same virus that killed 16 people in Vietnam earlier this year, but officials suspect the disease has returned to Tien Giang province.

"Resulting from poor decontamination after a bird flu outbreak earlier this year, the virus returned," said Tao Van Hoa, vice director of Tien Giang province's ministry of agriculture and rural development.

Since last Thursday, 875 birds from 50 to 75 days old have died in three farms in the province, and another 3,600 have been culled, the ministry official said from the province, some 70km south of Ho Chi Minh City.

Samples from the dead chickens have been sent for tests to a veterinary laboratory in Ho Chi Minh City, with the results expected to be available next week, said an official from the regional veterinary center in Vietnam's southern economic hub.

Nguyen Quanh Anh, the deputy head of the agency's national veterinary department, said that until the results come back, the previously reported outbreak in Bac Lieu is the only confirmed reoccurrence of the virus.

"The small number of deaths do not constitute an epidemic in the southern province," the local agency official said.

"We can't say that the bird flu is an epidemic in Tien Giang because the birds did not die in large numbers," Hoa said.

He added that efforts at prevention have been dramatically intensified in order to limit the chances of a recurrence of the disease.

Tien Giang province was one of the first provinces to announce large-scale bird deaths in Vietnam last January.

The virus eventually spread to 57 of Vietnam's 67 provinces and cities, claiming 16 lives.

When Vietnam's government announced that it had controlled the disease at the end of March, international animal and human health experts criticized the country.

Agricultural experts warned that two or three years could be required to successfully eradicate the virus.

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