Boy dies of bird flu in Vietnamese province

A four-year-old boy died from avian flu strain H5N1 in southern Dong Thap Province, authorities confirmed on Wednesday, saying that measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further.

The victim from Cao Lanh District's Tan Hoi Trung Commune likely contracted the virus from a chicken his grandmother bought at the beginning of the month. The boy was allegedly unwell at the time and relatives said he was present while his grandmother slaughtered the fowl.

All poultry in the neighborhood was incinerated by veterinary authorities after more chickens tested positive for the virus, according to the local department of health.

Ho Chi Minh City-based Pasteur Hospital confirmed that all the 10 people who had direct contact with the boy had blood tests with negative results. Local authorities have taken preventive measures to halt any outbreaks within the community.

More than 4,000 salanganes in Ninh Thuan Province's Dao Long Commune died this week. Samples taken from the dead birds were positive for the virus, according to the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Local authorities are making efforts to check the health status of people in the neighborhood and take other necessary preventive measures.

Among the 123 infected cases confirmed between December 2003 and February 2012, the H5N1 bird flu virus has claimed 61 lives in Viet Nam, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Ministry of Health has also drafted action plans for four possible epidemic scenarios that could occur if the latest avian flu strain, H7N9, spreads into the country.

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that temperatures would 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 in major health institutions like the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, the HCM City Pasteur Institute and the Nha Trang Pasteur Institute ready to test for the H7N9 virus. Health clinics have also been asked to prepare quarantine areas and medicine.