Vietnam, South Korea, Nigeria battle avian flu

Dec 22, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – More poultry have died of H5N1 avian influenza in Vietnamese provinces where the virus recently re-emerged, and the disease has spread to another province in South Korea and 3 more Nigerian states, according to news reports.

News services said today that fresh outbreaks were detected this week in Vietnam's Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces in the southern Mekong Delta, the sites of recent outbreaks that represented the first major reappearance of the disease in almost a year. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported today that 3 new outbreaks among chickens and ducks occurred in those areas.

"The situation is alarming," Hoang Van Nam, director of the epidemic unit for the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture, told DPA. "Our assessment is that bird flu is likely to spread far outside the outbreak confirmed localities."

Vietnam's deputy prime minister, Nguyen Sinh Hung, ordered animal health workers to finish culling poultry in the affected areas by the end of tomorrow, Nam told Reuters today.

Earlier news reports said the outbreaks occurred on farms where poultry had not undergone mandatory vaccination and some birds were hatched illegally. The country instituted tough avian flu prevention efforts after widespread outbreaks in 2004 and 2005 led to the culling of 66 million birds and 93 human cases, the world's highest.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported that ducks at a farm in Asan, South Chungchong province, tested positive for avian flu, the Korea Times reported yesterday. But a ministry official said it wasn't clear whether it was the virulent H5N1 virus.

In late November, H5N1 avian flu was found at farms in North Jeolla province, south of the current outbreak area. The outbreaks were South Korea's first in about 3 years.

The agriculture ministry said it would cull about 23,000 poultry within a 3-km radius around the farm in Asan to prevent the spread of the disease, according to the Times report.

In Nigeria, government inspectors found H5N1 avian flu in poultry samples from 3 more states, according to a United Nations report obtained by Bloomberg News. The states are Delta in the south, Kwara in the west, and Borno in the northeast. All Nigerian states have now had avian flu outbreaks, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

Reuters news service reported today that within the last 2 months the disease has also resurfaced in Kano and Ogun states.

In February, Nigeria became the first African nation to report an avian flu outbreak. Public health officials fear that the disease will be difficult to contain in Africa, where many people have backyard poultry and veterinary services are weak. At a recent donors' conference in Mali, the World Bank put Africa at the top of the priority list for aid because countries there are economically weaker and less able to respond to avian flu threats.

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