Monday, January 10, 2005

Viet Nam: bird flu epicenter

The 16 year old Viet Namese teen who has been battling avian influenza for the past several weeks has died, the third death from the disease in 10 days. Meanwhile an 18 year old woman and a 65 year old man are the latest suspect cases (via Reuters Alertnet and Agence France Press via Hindustan Times). All the cases are from the south of Viet Nam, but the disease amongst poultry has spread to the north and China has set up a 30 kilometer "immune protection zone" along its 1200 kilometer border with Viet Nam in Yunnan Province, where inspection and quarantine stations are being set up to monitor poultry and all household and farmed poultry are to be immunized. Twenty species of migratory birds are also being monitored (via China Daily).

Besides the 23 deaths, 17% of Viet Nam's poultry industry has been destroyed by disease or intentional culling. 58,000 birds have been killed in the last month alone. The poultry disease has now been reported in 15 of Viet Nam's 64 cities and provinces, but the disease has likely gone undetected in still more. With the Tet Lunar New Year holiday fast approaching, where chicken is a traditional dish, further spread of the disease to birds and humans is predicted. Henry Niman has noted that the high fatality rate for this disease continues unabated:
The bird flu case fatality rate for this season in Vietnam remains at 100%. There have been four confirmed cases of bird flu, Three (7M, 10M, 16F) have died and one (18F) is in critical condition. This season none of the confirmed or suspect H5N1 cases have recovered.

The two younger patients (14M, 18F) are in critical condition, and the condition of the third patient (65M) was not disclosed.

The six cases formed two clusters centering around ducks near Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta. In some regions nearly half of the ducks have been H5N1 positive.The poultry infections are spreading out in the Mekong Delta. Pets in Ho Chi Minh City have also died from H5N1 avian influenza.
Niman's site has become the place to go for breaking news and informed commentary on the public health aspects of avian influenza.

Viet Nam is fast becoming the epicenter of the H5N1 outbreak and a likely place where the virus will jump the species barrier to efficient transmission in humans.