|Viet Nam's shared border with China means that avian influenza could easily spread into the country, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said at a conference in Ha Noi on Saturday organised by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.—Illustrative image/VNA/VNS Photo
HA NOI (VNS)— Viet Nam's shared border with China means that avian influenza could easily spread into the country, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said at a conference in Ha Noi on Saturday organised by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Ministry of Health has approved an action plan that aims to detect any cases early on and thus limit the disease from spreading.
Smuggling between China and Viet Nam vastly increases the risk of the disease spreading, according to Dr. Tran Dac Phu, Deputy Director of the Preventive Medicine Department.
While Viet Nam has not recorded any cases of humans infected with the H7N9 virus, one person died of the H5N1 strain this year.
To prevent avian influenza from spreading to humans, the Ministry of Health will coordinate with the agriculture sector to handle flu outbreaks in poultry and wild birds and improve food safety.
The ministry is also increasing staff training and education campaigns to increase people's awareness, as well as strictly managing poultry trading activities.
And the Ministry will work closely with international organisations, particularly the World Health Organisation (WHO), to keep up-to-date with the epidemic's progress and seek support in the form of medicine and medical equipment.
Medical specialists are still unsure how the H7N9 strain spreads.
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.
Preventive measures include keeping up good personal hygiene practices such as washing hands with soap regularly and avoiding possible infection sources like poultry markets.
Localities join hands
Also on Saturday, Hoang Duc Hanh, deputy director of the Ha Noi Health Department, said strict controls on poultry trading and co-ordination among localities nationwide were critical in preventing the spread of avian influenza H7N9.
The conference attracted Ha Noi health authorities and their counterparts from northern border provinces Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Lai Chau and Dien Bien.
The conference looked at preventive measures to deal with the new strain of avian influenza, which has a high infection risk and has so far claimed 13 lives in China.
The Ha Noi department suggested cities and provinces share information and experiences in treatment and prevention as well as isolation measures.
Co-ordination was required to prevent its spread but poultry smuggling from China was difficult to control because of the long border and limited number of supervisors, said Quang Ninh Health Department director Vu Xuan Dieu.
Ha Noi has set up five mobile response teams to maintain 24/7 surveillance. The teams must guide diagnosis, treatment and prevention and respond to outbreaks within 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ha Giang province had strict measures to control poultry smuggling through the Thanh Thuy National Border Gate in Vi Xuyen District. It was working with China's Yunnan Province to deal with any infections.
And for its part, Lang Son province had equipped its many border gates with infrared body termperature readers and isolation rooms and had stockpiled the antiviral drug Tamiflu. — VNS