The Department of Preventive Medicine on August 25 ordered the northern border province of Lao Cai to brace for the influenza virus strain A/H5N6 as it caused human deaths in China’s Sichuan province.

The avian flu strain was detected recently in a flock of pheasants in Pho Lu town, making Lao Cai the third Vietnamese locality to be affected by A/H5N6 after northern Lang Son province bordering China and central Ha Tinh province bordering Laos.

Vietnam has not recorded any A/H5N6 patients so far, the department under the Ministry of Health said.

To prevent the poultry-to-human transmission of A/H5N6, it requested Lao Cai’s veterinary and health sectors to disinfect the hotbeds, keep a close watch on vulnerable areas, especially at poultry farms and markets, and strictly punish the smuggling of fowls.

The province, which shares 203.5km of borderline with China, was also told to be prepared for possible A/H5N6 exposure and send samples of those with acute respiratory diseases and pneumonia to the Hanoi-based National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology to test for the strain.

Local authorities were asked to prompt communication campaigns to raise public awareness of preventing the transmission of H5N6 from fowls to human.

According to the World Health Organisation, A/H5N6 is a highly pathogenic strain but there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission despite occasional instances of apparent inflection between family members./.