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Bird Flu Threatens Vietnam Food Supply
January 16, 2005
> Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has sent an urgent telegram regarding bird flu prevention to provinces, cities, the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Public Health, Trade, Transport, Public Security, Finance, Culture and Information and National Defence, the head of the national steering committees for bird flu and SARS control and prevention, Vietnam News Agency, Radio the Voice of Vietnam, Vietnam Television and the national daily Nhan Dan (People) newspaper. Following the bird flu's return and rapid spread, especially in the Mekong Delta and Southeast region, the Prime Minister has urged provinces, cities and departments to pay greater efforts to devise suitable measures to detect new outbreaks and prevent and stamp out the disease. Departments, in co-ordination with the police must strengthen the management of poultry transportation, slaughtering and sterilisation and medical staff should guild local people in preventive measures, Mr Khai said.
PM Khai asked the Ministries of Trade and Finance and provincial People's Committee to prepare enough safe food to meet local people's needs during the traditional Lunar New Year Festival (Tet). <<
The urgent telegram described above reflects the level of concern over the food supply for the upcoming New Year celebration. A high frequency of H5N1 bird flu infections of ducks in the Can Tho city area was announced earlier and now H5N1 has been detected in Hanoi in the north as well. Detection of H5N1 in ducks has been hampered because the infected birds do not have symptoms. However, the strain that produced lethal infections in humans last season grew to high levels in ducks that appeared healthy.
These asymptomatic ducks spread an unusually stable form of H5N1 and the infected ducks are also provocative targets for dual infections, which leads to further destabilization of the viral gene pool via reassortment and recombination.
Last season H5N1 spread throughout Asia, but signs of infection were easily monitored because the infected poultry died. The asymptomatic ducks create an added dimension in the control of the infections, which can spread in poorly monitored regions or countries and can go undetected in smuggled birds, whose demand will be increased by the shortages created in Vietnam and Thailand by poultry deaths and culling.
The WHO has issued a warning about contaminated poultry entering the food supply in relief camps in tsunami stricken countries. Although reported human to human transmission of H5N1 in Vietnam and Thailand has required close contact, crowded conditions in relief camps create environments favorable for transmission of respiratory diseases like bird flu. Fatal infections have also been transmitted to a large number of tigers in the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo via uncooked chickens. There have also been reports of pets dying in Ho Chi Minh City.