6,000 More Chickens Die
Of H5NI In Southern Vietnam

HANOI (DPA) - After two months with no reports of large bird flu outbreaks, 6,000 birds have been killed by the virus in southern Vietnam, a veterinary official said on Saturday.
"Seven hundred chickens on a farm in An Khanh commune in Ben Tre province were culled last Saturday after 6,000 of them had died within four days", said Mai Van Hiep, director of the province's veterinary department.
"Test samples of the fowls were positive for H5 virus", Hiep said from the province 150 kilometres south of Ho Chi Minh City.
The last reported large outbreak was in mid-April, but smaller outbreaks have been continually occurring since then, a veterinary official said.
"Actually, Vietnam never announces the termination of bird flu", said Hoang Van Nam, deputy director of the animal health department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. "Outbreaks, with large or small quantity of fowl, are still scattered throughout the country."
On Friday, a senior health official said a number of suspected human-to-human cases of H5N1 had been detected by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.
"We have got a number of suspected cases of human-to-human transmission of bird flu, including a doctor from Bach Mai hospital, Nguyen Tran Hien", the director of the institute, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We will need to do more research before coming to any conclusion."
The World Health Organization (WHO) has long warned that if the H5N1 virus mutates into a form that is easily spreadable between people, millions could die worldwide in the resulting pandemic.
"Every incident needs to be rapidly and thoroughly investigated, both as to whether human-to-human transmission has occurred and more importantly to confirm whether that transmission was efficient, which might indicate that the risk of the spread of avian influenza in the human population has increased", said Peter Horby, a WHO epidemiologist working in Vietnam.
Since reports began appearing in late 2003, 38 people have died from the virus in Vietnam.
The first wave of the virus saw it spread to 57 of Vietnam,s 64 provinces and cities. During the second wave from the end of 2004 and April 2005, the virus has affected bird populations in 36 provinces and cities, and 1.6 million birds have died or been culled.
As well as outbreaks in chickens, health experts warned that ducks are a silent carrier of the virus. They can carry the virus without showing any symptoms.
A ban on the raising of waterfowl is routinely flouted and flocks continue to roam in the countryside.
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