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Bird flu death in Vietnam

2nd March 2009

A 32-year-old Vietnamese man has died of avian influenza, in what is both the second case and the second death from bird flu in Vietnam this year.

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His is also the 109th case of bird flu in a country that has reported the second highest number of both cases and deaths since the World Health Organisation (WHO) began its tally in 2003.

Having contracted the virus by eating diseased poultry in the province of Ninh Binh, 90 km (56 miles) south of Hanoi, the man was ill for two weeks before dying in a hospital in the capital.

His death comes less than one week after the death of a 23-year-old woman in Quang Ninh province, east of the capital - the country's first case of bird flu in 2009.

Outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza have been reported among Vietnamese poultry stocks in the provinces where both deaths occurred.

The disease has spread to millions of birds around the world, especially in East Asia.

Though it can already be spread among humans when they come into contact with infected birds, scientists fear the virus could mutate.

If the H5N1 virus were more easily spread by human-to-human contact, millions could be killed in the resulting pandemic.

China, Vietnam, and Indonesia have all begun vaccinating their poultry.

However, it is hard to ensure that free-roaming birds in domestic situations do not pose a threat.

In addition, some have raised questions about the vaccines, saying that they may stop outward signs of the disease from showing, while allowing the disease to spread.

In Vietnam, the number of confirmed bird flu cases and deaths bottomed out at zero in 2006, from 61 cases and 19 deaths in the year before.

Since then, numbers in Vietnam have been significantly smaller.

The total number of bird flu deaths in Vietnam (109 total cases and 54 deaths) is the second highest in the world, after Indonesia's 141 total cases and 115 deaths.

So far this year, there have been more bird flu cases in China than in Vietnam, with seven confirmed cases and four deaths.

Areas of the world experiencing conditions of drought may be more susceptible to bird flu outbreaks, as was the case with three deaths in central China last January.

Nie Ben said that as drinking water becomes more scarce for wild birds, they may come into closer contact with domestic fowl, increasing the chances of cross-infection.

 

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