Vietnam Hopes to End Bird Flu Outbreak this Month
Author: Ho Binh Minh
Last week's decision to stop the raising of all waterfowl and an expected slowdown in poultry transport after this week's Tet Lunar New Year festival should help, senior Agriculture Ministry official Bui Quang Anh said.
"There is a possibility that the series of the epidemic outbreaks this time would end in late February," Anh, director of the ministry's Animal Health Department, told a news conference.
"In March and April we will carry out swiftly measures on restocking poultry while following closely veterinarian rules in order not to let the epidemic break again in late 2005," said Anh, a member of the national anti-bird flu steering committee.
Vietnam's third outbreak since the H5N1 virus arrived in late 2003 has infected half of Vietnam's 64 provinces. The virus seems to thrive best in cooler weather and is feared by experts as a potential cause of a human pandemic that would kill millions.
Despite increasingly urgent measures to halt the rapid spread of the disease, which waterfowl such as ducks can carry without showing symptoms, it has now killed 45 people -- 32 Vietnamese, 12 Thais and one Cambodian.
The Agriculture Ministry would ban the raising of waterfowl such as ducks and geese until June 30, Anh said.
After that, all breeding facilities would have to register before resuming operations, a practice Vietnam failed to follow last year, resulting in the latest recurrence, he said.
The outbreaks this year were on a much smaller scale than the same time last year, he said.
"Last year, by February 5 the virus had killed 16 million poultry on both small and large farms, while this year only 1.44 million poultry have been slaughtered or killed," he said.
"This year, it happened only at scattered small-sized family farms, while large farms with 10,000 poultry or more are safe," Anh said.
Vietnam would start testing Dutch and Chinese anti-bird flu vaccines for poultry after the Tet festival, said To Long Thanh, deputy director of the Animal Health Department's Centre for Veterinary Diagnosis.
State newspapers in China said scientists had developed a bird flu vaccine for poultry and mammals that can fend off the deadly virus and help stop its spread.
Most bird flu victims have caught the virus directly from infected poultry, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that could easily jump between humans.
The Food and Agriculture Organization said Vietnam's donors -- Japan and the World Bank are the biggest along with Denmark, France and Britain -- would be asked for more help as the country needed technical assistance, laboratory equipment and logistics expertise. Vietnam has also appealed for international help.