Health and agriculture ministers in Vietnam are moving swiftly to increase the country’s ability to cope with a possible outbreak of avian influenza (AI) after reports emerge of people contracting the deadly strains H9N2 and H7N9 in China.
Measures include strengthening outbreak surveillance and analysis of the situation, in addition to doubling efforts for medical treatment and increasing public awareness of the issue.
Bird flu has not yet been detected in Vietnam, according to Tran Dac Phu, director of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health’s preventive health unit. However, the alarm for bird flu has been raised in the Asian state because there is a chance of the strain spreading from China into the Vietnam, via its northern border.
Traffic and trade activities from the south of China into the north of Vietnam tend to increase along the border of the two states during the run-up to the New Year, according to Dac Phu.
Reports from a string of regional publications online suggest that as many as six people in China have been infected with the avian influenza strains H9N2 and H7N9, since it was first detected at the start of December.
H7N9 is a rare strain that was first detected in China two years ago, and it has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “an unusually dangerous virus for humans”.
Since the WHO announced two additional “laboratory-confirmed cases” of human infection with the H7N9 strain in China, the country has beefed up its measures to contain the virus.
Despite the virus not spreading to Vietnam, the bird flu alert has come at a bad time as the country recently reached a trade deal with France, after a 15-year ban on beef products. But France too is struggling to contain a bird flu outbreak of its own, after the French government described the situation as reaching the “crisis” stage.