LONG AN (VNS)— Poultry breeders in the Mekong Delta are nervously watching the spread of avian flu (H5N1).
Though the virus has not yet been found in swallows bred in the Delta, local authorities began to prepare preventive measures after their counterparts in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan declared an epidemic and killed all the infected birds.
The declaration made Ninh Thuan the first province in Viet Nam to officially acknowledge a bird flu outbreak among swallows being raised for their nests.
After residents in the province's Tan Hung District tested positive for avian flu and underwent treatment, more than 4,000 local birds were vaccinated and many were killed, said Le Minh Duc, director of Long An Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Though swallows raised in Long An had not tested positive for the virus, provincial authorities asked owners to remove them from residential areas, he told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon).
The province asked the administrations of five districts that border Cambodia to vaccinate their poultry after avian flu was discovered in the neighbouring country. Poultry brought in through the border should be carefully inspected, Duc said.
The coastal province of Kien Giang, which has the most swallow breeders in the Delta with hundreds of farms, is also preparing to face a potential avian flu epidemic.
The province's leaders plan to remove all urban swallow farms from residential areas in addition to taking other preventive measures.
In the Delta's Bac Lieu Province, the veterinary division tested three swallows and found that none carried the virus. Local health and agricultural officials have instructed farmers on preventive measures.
Tran Thi Thai, deputy chairwoman of Dong Thap Province's People's Committee, has urged the veterinary sector and local authorities to increase poultry vaccinations and tighten management on poultry slaughtering and trading, especially in areas near Cambodia.
Funding for 10 million doses of vaccine has been approved by the provincial government.
According to the Dong Thap veterinary division, the H5N1 virus was first found in the province in 2004. Since then, five people in the province have died.
The latest victim, a four-year-old boy in Cao Lanh District, was the country's first recorded death caused by the virus this year.
In the southern province of Dong Nai, the veterinary division started collecting blood samples of swallows for H5N1 tests last weekend.
Head of the division Tran Van Quang said that so far, six samples taken from two swallow-breeding households in Phan Rang-Thap Cham City tested negative for the virus.
The H5N1 virus has caused at least 62 deaths in Viet Nam since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.
In related news, inter-sector inspectors in northern Hai Phong City found over 7,100 young chickens illegally imported by truck from China on Sunday.
Nguyen Dac Trung, 22, of the city's Kien Thuy District asked the driver to drive away after inspectors stopped the truck for examination.
They failed to show any quarantine documents for the chickens and admitted to buying the imported chickens in coastal Quang Ninh Province that morning. — VNS