Vietnamese and UN animal health experts yesterday warned of a heightened bird flu threat after the virus was detected in poultry in the south and centre of the country.
Vietnam has reported no human infections since late 2005, after 42 people died in two years, but cold weather, bird migration and the imminent seasonal peak in chicken consumption all increase the risk of a resurgence.
Avian influenza has broken out among ducks or chickens in 26 communes across Ca Mau, Bac Lieu and Hau Giang provinces over the past month, causing thousands of bird deaths and the slaughter of nearly 30000 birds.
Officials have since vaccinated 700000 illegally raised fowl not covered in twice-yearly vaccination drives.
The disease was also detected in early December in a spot check in Quang Nam, where three quarters of a sample of 30 unvaccinated ducks tested positive, animal health officials said.
Hoang Van Nam, deputy head of the national animal health department, said bird flu alerts had been issued for five more northern and central provinces.
"We are very concerned about the test results in Quang Nam. We have carried out tests and will do more. The situation is worrying."
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said it was "closely monitoring" the situation and was testing virus samples. It stressed that there was no cause for panic because most of Vietnam's poultry had been vaccinated. - Sapa-AFP