Tue, Feb 01, 2005 - Page 5 News List

UN agencies will meet to discuss avian influenza

Countries battling bird flu will meet with UN agencies and donors in Vietnam in late February to discuss the fight against the deadly virus, officials said yesterday as the latest outbreak claimed its 12th victim.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health will sponsor the meeting in Ho Chi Minh City from Feb. 23 to 25, FAO representative in Vietnam Anton Rychener said.

"It will be the following up of last year's conference," Rychener said.

"Participants will discuss the control of the outbreak and the measures that could possibly be undertaken" in the future, he said.

The avian influenza is spreading quickly in Vietnam claiming a few more lives. The latest victim of the virus is a 10-year-old girl from southern Long An province, heavily hit by bird flu both last year and this year.

A doctor at Ho Chi Minh City's Pediatrics Hospital No.1 said she was admitted to hospital on Jan. 20 and died Sunday.

The virus has claimed 12 lives in Vietnam since Dec. 30 and 32 since the end of 2003. Another two patients, confirmed to be positive with the H5N1 virus, are in stable condition in Hanoi, doctors said.

"The two patients are in very good condition, and are expected to be discharged by the end of this week," a doctor from the emergency department of Hanoi's Institute of Tropical Diseases said yesterday.

"We are treating several other patients suspected of bird flu infection, while waiting for their test results," she said.

Bird flu has now spread to 31 of Vietnam's 64 cities and provinces. More than one million poultry have been culled since the start of the year in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

In nearby Thailand, the only country so far hit by the bird flu recurrence with Vietnam, a strain of the deadly virus has been detected in two more provinces, bringing to six the number of regions affected by the disease, livestock officials said yesterday.

The country has been under high alert since the H5N1 strain was detected in chickens and fighting cocks in the provinces of Phitsanulok, Rayong, and Nakhon Pathom. The disease was also detected in pigeons in the central Thai province of Uthai Thani, where more than 400 pigeons were culled.

Twelve people have died in Thailand from the virus.

At a regional conference held in Bangkok in February last year, experts from 23 countries and agencies addressed issues including veterinary services, surveillance and biosecurity, carcass disposal, vaccination, the economic effects of bird flu and rehabilitation.

The follow-up meeting in Vietnam's southern economic capital will evaluate control measures implemented in the last 12 months and review scientific advances in the understanding of the deadly influenza that has killed a total of 44 people.

Officials from bilateral and multilateral donors as well as the World Health Organization will also attend.

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