The Health Ministry is urging people across the country to be on alert against bird flu outbreaks before and after T​et. (Photo: ntd.com.vn)
 
Hanoi (VNA) - The Ministry of Health has urged municipal and provincial people’s committees, health departments and citizens across the country to take preventions against a possible bird flu over the next 16 days ahead of the Lunar New Year and duringthe first months of the new year.
 
Tran Dac Phu, Director of the ministry's Department of Preventive Medicine, said that the urgent recommendation came after evaluations during the late months of 2017 and early 2018 showing that newly-emerging infectious diseases such as Mers-CoV continue to be reported in the Middle East, along with influenza A/ H7N9 in China, nld.com.vn online newspaper reported.
 
Meanwhile in Vietnam, influenza A / H5N1 and A / H5N6 continue to occur in poultry in many areas and are at risk of transmission to humans.
 
According to Phu, from January 17 to 19, bird flu was detected at a poultry-breeding farm in Dien Chau district, the central province of Nghe An.
 
Nearly 200 of the 800 poultry at the farm died, while the farm’s owner reported his poultry herd wasn’t vaccinated against bird flu.
 
The Department of Animal Health at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has warned that many types of influenza A /H7N9 virus and other highly virulent strains such as A/ H5N2, A/H5N8 that haven’t yet appeared in Việt Nam are at risk of entering the country.
 
The main route of transmission was smuggling of poultry and unknown-origin poultry products. Therefore, the Department of Animal Health asked local authorities to be active in prevention and controlling the threat of bird flu outbreaks, strengthen inspection and strictly tackle poultry smuggling and illegal transporting.
 
Local authorities and relevant departments should closely monitor the situation to ensure timely action against outbreaks.
 
About the possibility of a bird flu outbreak in the Tet period and first months of the new year, the Ministry of Health warned the disease could present a complicated challenge due to the spring weather, people’s over-use of food during and after Tet holidays and high travel demand. All these factors increase the risk of transmission.
 
Nguyen Van Kinh, Director of the Central Tropical Disease Hospital, said the cold and humid weather was creating conditions for influenza viruses to develop. At some clinics, many patients were reported with seasonal influenza viruses such as H1N1 and H3N2, but the clinical symptoms were very severe.
 
According to health experts, the virus strain of A / H7N9 is one of the major threats in the world.  Influenza A/H7N9 was recorded in 2013 in China but hasn’t been controlled yet.
In 2017, influenza A/H7N9 outbreak in China, including two border provinces with Việt Nam, with 100 deaths were reported.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have warned that the influenza A / H7N9 virus strain has changed from low to high virulence in both poultry and humans. It can kill 100 per cent of infected poultry and can transmit 100-1,000 times faster than a low virulence virus. People with this flu may develop edema, heart failure, severe liver failure, coma and death, according to two organizations.
Epidemiological assessments of the flu epidemic are difficult to predict because of differing virulence in influenza strains. For example, the A/H1N1 flu is dangerous at first, but actually the mortality rate is low, only 0.09 percent. Meanwhile, H5N1 has a mortality rate of 70 percent to 90 percent, even up to 100 per cent at some periods. H7N9 also reported a mortality rate of 50 – 60 percent.
 
“So far, the world has recorded many influenza pandemics. The Ministry of Health recommends people actively prevent the flu amid the increasing number of flu cases early this year," said Tran Dac Phu.
In Vietnam, about 1.5 to 1.8 million cases of influenza are reported annually and flu cases tend to increase at the time between winter and spring.-VNA