July 19, 2005

Vietnam to vaccinate chickens against bird flu

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will use over 400 million batches
of vaccine to inoculate its chickens and ducks against the
deadly bird flu that has killed 40 people in the country, half
of them since December.

Agriculture Deputy Minister Bui Ba Bong said in a plan seen
by Reuters on Tuesday that the government would use 415 million
doses of Dutch and Chinese vaccines in a program starting in
two provinces from August 1.

Other provinces facing high risk of infection would follow
between October 1 and November 10, before the arrival of the
winter when the deadly virus seems to thrive best.

Vietnam has an estimated 210 million poultry.

The Chinese vaccine against the H5N1 virus, which
international health officials fear could mutate into a form
which might trigger a human pandemic, would be used on ducks.

A Dutch vaccine against the H5N2 virus, a less virulent
strain which is not widespread in Vietnam, will be used on

"The vaccine against the H5N2 virus works well against the
H5N1 virus as it functions against the H5 subtype," Dau Ngoc
Hao, deputy head of the Agriculture Ministry's Animal Health
Department, told Reuters.

Vietnam decided on the Dutch vaccine because it had been
used elsewhere while a vaccine against the H5N1 virus had been
developed in China only early this year, he said.

On Monday, experts said the H5N1 virus seemed to be
mutating yet again and may be able to hide in healthy-looking
ducks, thus putting both other birds and people at risk in a
region where duck farming is widespread.

Vietnamese officials say tests show the H5 component of the
virus exists in ducks in the Mekong Delta but the birds show no
symptoms, making it difficult to detect the disease.

The H5N1 virus has also killed 12 Thais and four Cambodians
since it first swept across much of Asia in late 2003.

More than 140 million chickens have been slaughtered in the
region in a bid to halt the disease, but experts say it is now
endemic in several countries, including Vietnam.

The World Health Organization says that the longer it takes
to eradicate the H5N1 virus, the more likely it is to mutate
into a form which can pass easily between humans.

So far, nearly all the victims have caught the virus
through direct contact with infected fowl.

If it did mutate into a form which humans can pass to each
other, the world faces the possibility of a pandemic which
might kill millions of people with no immunity to it, the WHO