Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More bird flu in Viet Nam

As ProMed Mail notes, avian flu is spreading fast in Viet Nam:
. . . just 3 days ago, the Vietnamese authorities mentioned outbreaks in 20 communes and 15 districts of 7 cities and provinces, while the [the most recent reports from Viet Nam refer] to 51 communes belonging to 29 districts of 9 provinces. The 2 added (southern) provinces are Bac Lieu and Ca Mau.
ProMed also points to a very useful administrative map to see where named provinces and districts are located.

Avian flu is a major crisis for Viet Nam. In the last 6 weeks more than 100,000 birds have been culled and there are now 11 suspected and 4 confirmed cases, of which all of the latter have died. The Viet Namese report that after its initial appearance in early December, the spread began to accelerate in the first nine days of January. We are thus entering the exponential growth phase of the epidemic curve.

The avian flu epidemic is not only hurting the poultry industry and worrying the average citizen at a time (the Lunar New Year) when chicken is a traditional dish, but is also driving inflation which is now close to 10%. In last year's outbreak Viet Nam lost 43 million poultry, had its gross domestic product cut by 0.5% and suffered estimated losses of $120 million.

The country's porous borders with its neighbors means the disease can spread readily throughout the region. There has been little news of this outbreak in Western media. Yet the most important story of the year may be incubating there.