The deaths, which occurred in recent days, were revealed only today. Confirmation tests are under way. The World Health Organisation has asked China to clarify the circumstances surrounding a girl's death in Hunan.
Bejing (AsiaNews/Agencies) Bird flu may have claimed two more victims in Vietnam. These would be a 14-year-old girl who died on 23 October and a 26-year-old man who died on 26 October. News of their death was broken only today.
"It's very, very clear that all the critical symptoms pointed to bird flu," said Dr Nguyen Ngoc Tai, the director of the Vietnam-Cuba Hospital in Dong Hoi, Quang Binh province, central Vietnam. These symptoms include respiratory problems, fever and lung infection. A third person with symptoms of the disease has been sent to a better-equipped hospital in Hue City. The victims had eaten goose and eggs days before falling ill, according to a local newspaper.
Since 2003, more than 40 people have been killed by the virus of the chickens. As in other states in the region, in Vietnam, it is common to breed hens and geese in the backyard and to leave them roaming free. In 2003, in the first epidemic, 43 million birds died or were culled in Vietnam. Vaccination of all poultry is under way, but many farmers are not collaborating. "In some remote areas, some farmers have never even listened to a radio," said Dau Ngoc Hao, director of the veterinary department of Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
"Whether or not our fight is successful depends a lot on how fast and how much we can improve people's awareness and change their attitudes". But Vietnam's programme to counter the diseases is budgeted at 430 million US dollars, money which the government does not have.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday called on China to supply it with more information about the death of a 12-year-old girl in Hunan. Her death is feared to be from bird flu however doctors said she died of pneumonia. Her nine-year-old brother, who fell ill at the same time as she did, was said to be in "stable conditions"; he too is said to be suffering from pneumonia.
"After SARS they know they should really provide timely information about what is going on," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said from in Geneva. China was accused in 2002 of covering up the extent of an outbreak of the disease in the south of the country, contributing to its eventual spread to 8,000 people around the world, 800 of whom died.
Maria Cheng, WHO spokesperson, said the organisation has not yet received official reports about the cause of death of the girl. She said some newspapers said the girl was cremated and it was not detailed which tests had been carried out. "We need more clarification because both apparently had been exposed to sick chickens," Cheng said. The father of the girl said all the family had eaten a hen which died suddenly and that the two children fell sick immediately after.
In another development, the Thai Health Minister said testing undertaken in Paris revealed that three French tourists from Reunion Island, who fell ill on their return from a park in the country, did not have bird flu.