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January 04, 2007

Vietnam: First suspected human cases in a year

Bad news from Vietnam. First, via the International Herald Tribune: Vietnam reports first suspected bird flu cases in humans in a year.

Four members of a family in southern Vietnam have been hospitalized with symptoms of bird flu, a doctor said Saturday, the first suspected human cases in the country in more than a year.

A 36-year-old woman and her three children aged three to 13 were admitted to Nam Can Hospital in Ca Mau province this past week with fevers, coughing, decreased white blood cells and damaged lungs, said Ho Van Van, a doctor at the hospital.

The family had four chickens and five ducks, and ate one of the chickens, which had fallen sick and died, on Dec. 23, he said.

Swab samples from the four patients are being tested for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, Van said. Health officials have disinfected the family's house and neighborhood, he added.

Vietnam has been widely seen as a model for how to fight bird flu using extensive vaccinations of poultry, careful surveillance and slaughters of birds in affected areas.

However, earlier this month, it reported its first bird flu outbreaks in poultry in a year in Ca Mau and two other provinces in the Mekong Delta.

The story in Thanh Nien Daily is even worse: Six suspected bird flu cases in Mekong Delta. Excerpt:

Six people were isolated under suspicion of bird flu infection in the Mekong Delta’s Ca Mau and Soc Trang provinces, all of them reportedly had eaten chickens, said local health officials Friday.

Huynh Trung Kien, acting manager of Ca Mau’s health department said the four cases, all in a family in Nam Can district, were hospitalized with symptoms like coughs and high fever after they consumed chickens last week.

The victims were immediately quarantined with their samples submitted to laboratory for testing, Kien said.

Nguyen Huu Minh, deputy head of the animal health department of Soc Trang reported two people in My Tu district had difficulty breathing after eating chicken.

For now, at least, the key word is "suspected": these are not yet confirmed cases. And even if they are confirmed as H5N1, the Vietnamese have some hard-won experience in handling and containing the disease.

Posted by dymaxion at January 4, 2007 09:50 PM

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