One-fifth of total waterfowl flocks in Vietnam's central Quang Tri province have just been found to contract bird flu virus strain H5N1, local newspaper Saigon Liberation reported Friday.
The provincial Veterinarian Bureau has culled over 23,000 waterfowls, mainly ducks, in the 38 infected flocks. It will further the culling if the 144 untested flocks prove to be infected with H5N1.
Vietnam, which has seen no bird flu outbreaks since April, culled a flock of 6,700 chickens in southern Ben Tre province in mid-June after specimens from 6,000 dead or sick poultry in the flock were tested positive to H5N1.
An international team, consisting of top virologists and epidemiologists from Chinese Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, arrived in Vietnam on June 6 to study the possibility of more widespread H5N1 human transmission, changes in the virus strain, and the likelihood of increased person-to-person transmission, said a press release by the office of the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Vietnam on Friday.
"What has happened in Vietnam may have public health implications for the entire world, and will be crucial in preparing for a possible pandemic," Hans Troedsson, WHO Representative in the country, was quoted in the release.
In mid-June, the Preventive Medicine Department under Vietnam's Health Ministry announced that four local people were infected with H5N1 from June 1-17, including two from Hanoi capital city, one from northern Hai Duong province, and one from central Nghe An province.
The newly confirmed cases bring the total in Vietnam since mid- December 2004 to 59 cases, of which 18 were fatal. Since the first bird flu patient was detected in Vietnam in late 2003, Vietnam had detected 86 human cases of bird flu infection, including 38 fatalities, in 31 cities and provinces, the department confirmed late last week.