Vietnam confirms first bird flu outbreak among poultry in a year

Thousands of poultry died of bird flu in the past two weeks in southern Vietnam, the government said Wednesday, in the country's first reported outbreak in a year.

Tests showed that some 5,500 one-month-old ducks and 500 chickens died of the H5N1 bird flu strain in the southern Mekong Delta provinces of Ca Mau and Bac Lieu, said Hoang Van Nam, deputy director of the Department of Animal Health.

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said it was not a major outbreak.

Although 42 people have died of H5N1 in Vietnam since late 2003, the Southeast Asian country has not reported any human infections since November 2005, and the last reported outbreak in birds was a month later.

The government has largely curtailed the movement of bird flu through a mass vaccination campaign, but Nam warned that this time the virus could spread.

"The risk of the bird flu virus spreading further is very high because some farmers dumped dead ducklings into canals," Nam said. "The cool weather and increased movement of people and poultry ahead of the Lunar New Year festival will also help the virus to spread further."

The New Year holiday falls on Feb. 17, reports AP.

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said they were expecting some minor outbreaks to occur.

"What has been done is the right thing and has been highly successful despite this minor problem, which we were expecting to occur," said Andrew Speedy, the FAO representative in Vietnam. "We would expect a few cases."

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