Vietnam approves another US$82 million for fight against bird flu

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai approved another 1.3 billion dong (US$82.6 million) for the fight against bird flu in Vietnam, state-controlled media reported Thursday. The bulk of the money, 1,06 billion dong (US$67.5 million) will be allocated to the Ministry of Health, Tien Phong newspaper reported. The remainder will be divided among the agriculture, defense and public security and public transport ministries, it said.

The additional funding will be used to upgrade medical facilities, buy more equipment, and stockpile medicines for the treatment of bird flu patients, said Health Ministry official Pham Hung.

Vietnam has been battling the H5N1 virus since it emerged across poultry farms in late 2003. At least 64 people have died in the region from bird flu, with two thirds of those deaths in Vietnam. The country has taken increasingly tough measures against bird flu as the winter months approach, when the virus is most likely to spread. At least 13 provinces have reported new outbreaks over the past month.

Vietnam has vaccinated 120 million poultry since it launched the nationwide campaign in August. The last of some 45 tons of bird flu vaccine from China arrives in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by this weekend, said Pham Chung, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City animal health department.

Southern Ho Chi Minh City will also ban pet birds in households, said Huynh Huu Loi, director of the city's animal health department. Families must remove their pet birds from the city by Nov. 30. Any bird found after that period will be confiscated and destroyed, he said.

Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have ordered the cull of all live poultry by this weekend. The government is offering compensation of 15,000 dong (US$1) per bird for owners who turn in their poultry. Anyone caught with poultry after this period will face an undetermined fine, reports the AP. I.L.

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