Avian influenza reported in Vietnam, Japan

Jan 12, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Official sources have confirmed outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Vietnam and Japan, and one media report said the Vietnamese outbreak may be linked to the deaths of 11 people in Hanoi.

The OIE, or World Animal Health Organization, posted an online report Jan 9 that 70,000 birds had the disease on three farms in the southern Vietnamese provinces of Long An and Tien Giang. The report from Dr. Bui Quang Anh of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said 40,000 birds had died and another 30,000 were sacrificed.

An Associated Press (AP) report from Hanoi today quoted a World Health Organization (WHO) official as saying the outbreak may be linked to the deaths of 10 children and one adult in Hanoi. Peter Horby, a WHO epidemiologist, said the 11 people who died and three others who are ill had had contact with poultry before they fell ill, according to the report. But he said the virus did not appear to be spreading widely among humans.

The story said Vietnamese scientists are investigating whether the disease can jump to humans. In Hong Kong in 1997, an avian influenza virus classified as H5N1 caused 18 human cases, including 6 deaths.

The AP report said the outbreak has affected nearly 600,000 chickens in Vietnam, most of them in Long An and Tien Giang. In northern Vietnam, about 81,000 chickens at a farm 25 miles west of Hanoi were destroyed because of the disease, the story said.

The OIE report listed the virus as subtype H5 and its origin as unknown. Officials estimated that the outbreak began Dec 27, and lab tests for the virus were positive Jan 6.

A Reuters report today said Vietnamese officials are seeking help from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to control the disease. Officials estimated the number of affected chickens at 800,000. Vietnam had 185 million chickens at the end of 2003, the story said.

Also today, the OIE posted a report of an outbreak of avian influenza in Japan, described as the first outbreak there since 1925. Reuters and other news services reported that 6,000 chickens on a farm in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi died of the disease.

The virus was identified as subtype H5, according to the OIE report provided by Dr. Masako Kurimoto of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in Tokyo. He listed the source of the infection as unknown.

The outbreaks in Vietnam and Japan follow a December outbreak in South Korea. Farms in at least five provinces were affected, and hundreds of thousands of chickens were sacrificed to contain the disease.

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