Reported by Nam Son – Thanh Tung – Ngoc Tram
Last Updated: Monday, March 23, 2009 15:27:42 Vietnam (GMT+07)

Health officials have called for strengthened precautionary and preventive measures against the spread of bird flu in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.

The call came after the death of a three-year-old boy from the province’s Chau Thanh District on Thursday.

Nguyen Huy Nga, head of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Health Department, Friday ordered the district to treat itself as an epidemic hotspot.

Nga said a locality is normally considered to have an epidemic after two locals test positive for the avian influenza virus.

“But now that the virus has spread quickly and poses a high threat, one human case is enough.”

Three-year-old Tran Cong Phuc from the district, admitted to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tropical Diseases Institute on Monday, is the country’s third human victim of bird flu so far this year.

The two other victims, from the northern provinces of Quang Ninh and Ninh Binh, had both slaughtered and eaten sick fowls.

Nga said the 100 percent death ratio so far in avian flu cases was caused mainly by late discovery and treatment.

Another boy of four-year-old from Chau Thanh District, identified as N.T.K.T., was transferred to the Tropical Diseases Institute Thursday with bird flu symptoms but Friday tested negative for the H5N1 virus.

Doctors said T. didn’t eat and touch poultry but his Hoa Tan Commune neighbors Phuc’s Phu Long Commune and he lives 100 meters from an area where three chickens have died for unknown reasons.

T. is still segregated and being treated as a bird flu victim..

Le Vinh Tan, vice chairman of the province People’s Committee, asked health officials to continue sterilization at the two communes, ban the transport of poultry out of the communes, and keep constant watch for any sign of human infection, in order to prevent an outbreak in the province.

Doan Phi, deputy director of Dong Thap Province Health Department, said the department has started to vaccinate all the fowls in Chau Thanh District and cull those in Phuc’s neighborhood.

Five of Vietnam’s 63 provinces, cities are currently battling bird flu outbreaks, according to the Animal Health Department.

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