CDC warns travelers about avian flu in Vietnam

Feb 8, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – US health officials are warning travelers to Vietnam to take special precautions to protect themselves from avian influenza.

Also, H5N1 avian flu has been detected in poultry in Cambodia for the first time since last September, and a Vietnamese official has said the widespread poultry outbreaks of avian flu in Vietnam may be starting to wane.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its advisory for Vietnam-bound travelers Feb 4. Vietnamese government sources have reported 15 human cases of avian flu, including 12 fatal ones, since late December, most of them in the south.

Noting that human cases of avian flu have occurred recently in northern Vietnam, the CDC said the diseases's spread "could pose a greater risk to travelers, especially during the upcoming Lunar New Year, when increases are expected both in travel and in preparation and consumption of poultry." The Lunar New Year (Tet) celebration begins Feb 9.

Among other things, the CDC urges travelers to

  • Locate healthcare resources in Vietnam before leaving home
  • Avoid poultry farms, live-bird markets, and contact with sick or dead poultry
  • Thoroughly cook all foods from poultry, including eggs
  • Monitor their health for 10 days after returning home and see a physician if symptoms develop

A separate advisory for people going to Vietnam to visit family and friends offers more detailed advice, including advice on food preparation and a warning not to travel on commercial airline flights while sick.

In Cambodia, the H5N1 virus was found in dead chickens on a poultry farm in the province of Kandal, just south of Phnom Penh, the capital, according to a Feb 6 Reuters report. "The bird flu has hit our country again," Agriculture Ministry official San Vanty was quoted as saying.

Cambodia reported its first outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu in January 2004, and its last previous outbreak was in September 2004, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The first human case in the country was that of a 25-year-old woman who lived near the Vietnamese border and died in a Vietnamese hospital Jan 30.

The Reuters report said testing in the woman's home province had identified no more human cases of the disease. Earlier reports said the woman's 14-year-old brother had died in mid-January of a similar illness, but testing was not possible in his case.

In Vietnam, the head of the nation's animal health department said avian flu was showing signs of decreasing, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report today. Bui Quang Anh attributed the signs to the "tough measures" used by the government.

He said the country has become more experienced in dealing with the disease, which has occurred only on small farms in recent weeks, according to the story.

But Anton Rychener, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Vietnam, told AFP, "I would not pay much attention to this statement. Vietnam wants to reassure people before [lunar] new year."

The report also said the government is banning the breeding of waterfowl and quail nationwide from Feb 9 until June 30. In addition, authorities will try using Chinese and Dutch vaccines on poultry flocks, the story said.

See also:

CDC advisory for all travelers to Vietnam

CDC advisory for people visiting family and friends in Vietnam

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