Vietnam unveils an emergency plan to deal with bird flu pandemic

Vietnam's government on Monday unveiled an emergency plan to deal with a potential bird flu pandemic two days after the virus was confirmed in poultry in Europe. The plan covers three scenarios, including one with millions of people infected by the H5N1 bird flu virus.

"The situation is very urgent," Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told participants of a national pandemic preparedness conference. "We do not exaggerate the threat. A pandemic, if it occurs, is forecast to be very serious."

The measures range from declaring a nationwide state of emergency and isolating everyone infected to culling all infected birds and banning the sale and transport of poultry from infected areas. Dung said the country's priority was do everything possible to prevent a pandemic. If it's unstoppable, then utmost efforts should be taken to minimize losses, he said. He added that the government's political will and the public's participation would be key to successfully dealing with a pandemic.

"If we fail to do this, we could hardly succeed. We could hardly achieve our goal," Dung said.

The virus continues to spread along migratory bird routes. Romania announced Saturday that bird flu was confirmed in poultry there, reports the AP.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was in Vietnam over the weekend to assess the communist country's bird flu preparedness. The U.S. has pledged more than US$6 million to help strengthen surveillance, training and rapid response systems, reports the AP. I.L.

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