Jan 10, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – As Vietnam grapples with the implications of a third human death from H5N1 avian flu in less than 2 weeks, neighboring countries are ramping up surveillance and intervention.
The 16-year-old girl from Tay Ninh province had been hospitalized on a respirator for weeks before dying on Jan 5, according to the online newspaper China Daily. Her death was preceded by that of a 6-year-old boy Dec 30 and a 9-year-old-boy Jan 4. Like her, both boys were from southern provinces.
Now an 18-year-old girl from Vietnam's Tien Giang province is hospitalized with a suspected case of avian flu, according to Xinhua, the Chinese news service. Her case brings to at least four the number of confirmed or suspected avian flu cases in Vietnam since late December.
The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its count of H5N1 human cases Jan 7, listing 47 total cases and 34 deaths in Vietnam and Thailand since Jan 2004.
Despite the avian flu threat, tourists who had planned to travel in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Maldives before the recent tsunami disaster are seeing Vietnam as an alternative, the Vietnam News (VNS) reported. About 10,000 tourists arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the first 5 days of 2005, which is more than three times the arrivals for the same days in 2004, according to tourism companies in the city. Further north, some Hanoi hotels were reporting unusually high numbers, with occupancy rates of up to 70% or 80%, VNS said.
In Ho Chi Minh City, more than 1,000 ducks tested positive for H5N1 flu, VNS said. Three pets had reportedly died of avian flu, VNS added, but the story didn't list the species.
The WHO has urged Vietnam to tighten controls on poultry transport and trade during the coming traditional lunar New Year fete, VNS reported.
The municipal veterinary agency on Jan 6 urged Ho Chi Minh City to close illegal slaughterhouses and increase supervision of poultry processing, VNS reported. There are about 796,000 poultry in the city, with another the 30,000 birds imported daily.
Long An province has set up three mobile quarantine stations on the way to Ho Chi Minh City, VNS said.
Vietnam's neighbor to the north, China, is taking emergency steps to prevent the spread of H5N1 across its 1,200-kilometer border with Vietnam, Xinhua reported. A local animal husbandry department set up a 30-km wide "immune protection zone" along the border, with disinfecting stations for vehicles and people at entry points to China, Xinhua wrote on Jan 8.
Some Chinese were encouraged to vaccinate poultry, sources told Xinhua. The practice has been controversial, because experts say that vaccinated chickens can still carry and spread the virus without themselves showing signs of illness.
Vietnam reported eight new outbreaks of avian flu between Dec 24 and Jan 4, according to the World Organizations for Animal Health (OIE). Thailand reported seven outbreaks between Dec 30 and Jan 6, involving more than 25,000 birds.
Hong Kong is on yellow alert for avian flu, which entails temperature screenings at the airport, health messages broadcast on flights from Vietnam, and letters sent to doctors and hospitals alerting providers to avian flu, according to the government of Hong Kong.