Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien has asked hospitals and preventive health centres throughout Vietnam to take active measures to prevent avian influenza H7N9 and prepare options when the epidemic occurs.

The minister made the request on April 9 while working with HCM City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and Tropical Hospital on the prevention of the new A/H7N9 virus.

She emphasised the need to raise public awareness of food hygiene and safety with the use of fowls with origin as well as coordination among ministries in virus prevention and treatment.

According to Tien, the ministry has drafted action plans for four possible epidemic scenarios that could occur if the avian flu strain A/H7N9 spreads into the country.

She said that temperatures will be taken at border checkpoints. If someone has a high temperature, they will be tested for the virus.

Illegally imported poultry from China was one of the biggest risk factors for an epidemic, she added.

In addition to stepping up monitoring of people and animals crossing the border, the health sector will pay more attention to patients with acute respiratory infections where the cause is unknown.

One solution put forward by the ministry is to have laboratories like the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, the HCM City Pasteur Hospital and the Nha Trang Pasteur Institute ready to test for the A/H7N9 virus.

Health clinics have also been asked to prepare quarantine areas and medicine.

The ministry has set up five group to conduct inspections and give instructions on the prevention and control of influenza in 10 cities and provinces, including Hanoi, HCM City and northern Lao Cai province.

According to the World Trade Organisation, no vaccine is currently available for this subtype of the influenza virus and there is so far no evidence of ongoing human-to-human transmission.

To date, H7N9 has claimed the lives of nine people in China.-VNA