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April 28, 2006

Vietnam says it will need more than $400 million for bird flu, pandemic preparednessThe Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) Vietnam needs more than $400 million to fight bird flu and prepare for a potential pandemic over the next five years, and expects about half to come from international donors, an official said Friday.

Vietnam would use the money for improvements in human and animal health care, Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat said. The country has been examining how to better monitor human cases, strengthen border controls to block smuggling of potentially infected birds and improve laboratory facilities inside Vietnam, among other measures.

``We realize this is a very dangerous disease, but if we can do it in a concerted way with our best effort, then we can surely prevent it (from spreading),'' Cao said.

More than 30 experts from 12 organizations, including the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the World Bank, have spent the past two weeks taking stock of Vietnam's progress and helping the country finalize its five-year plan to battle the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Vietnam will present its draft plan next week at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bird flu meeting in Danang. The meeting will be attended by health and agricultural ministers of the 21-nation group and other agencies, such as the WHO.

The Vietnamese government and private sector would contribute about $225 million to help restructure Vietnam's poultry industry, which has been hit hard by the spread of the virus. Vietnam has been seeking to reduce the number of backyard farms and improve sanitary measures in slaughterhouses, among other measures.

Vietnam has not reported any flu outbreaks in poultry since December and no human bird flu cases since November. Experts have attributed that success to a mass poultry vaccination campaign that began last year, combined with increased surveillance and awareness.

But Hans Troedsson, WHO representative in Vietnam, said Vietnam must remain on alert.

``If there would be complacency now, Vietnam would be facing imminent risk,'' he said. ``What's important is that we are not having a false security thinking that the threat is over from avian influenza in Vietnam.''

Bird flu has killed at least 113 people since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003. The virus remains hard for people to catch, but health experts fear it could eventually mutate into a form that spreads easily from person to person, potentially sparking a pandemic.

Posted by dymaxion at April 28, 2006 02:29 PM

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