08/17/2004, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Avian flu claims more human victims

Hanoi (AsiaNews/AP) – A 19-year-old woman, hospitalised last Thursday in Ho Chi Minh City for serious respiratory problems, was found to be infected by the H5N1 avian flu virus. "Test results are positive," said Tran Tinh Hien, director of the hospital that admitted the young woman, "but her conditions are stable."

The virus, which can be transmitted to humans, was responsible for an epidemic that struck several Asian countries last year killing dozens of people and forcing authorities to destroy millions of birds.

Health authorities in Hanoi also confirmed yesterday that a 25-year-old woman and two children, respectively 4- and 1-year-old, who died in early August, were H5N1-positive. This brings the death toll due to avian or bird flu to 27.

"The children had eaten some contaminated poultry whilst the young woman raised ducks," said Nguyen Huy Dang, director of the Provincial Department of Animal Health. "We disinfected the area in the northern province of Ha Tay where the young victims lived, and took some poultry samples for testing," he added.

"If results are positive we'll have to destroy all the poultry within a 3 km radius," said Nguyen Van Kiem, director of the Provincial Health Department.

Vietnamese authorities have so far destroyed about 100 million chickens, 16,000 just in the last month, to stop the spread of the virus.

China and Thailand, too, have had cases of avian flu in humans.

From the beginning of 2004, 16 people have died in Vietnam and 8 in Thailand. No case of human contagion has been registered in China since last year's epidemic according to local authorities. However, many observers and experts remain sceptical about Chinese claims.

The World Health Organisation is still concerned that an avian flu outbreak among humans is possible.

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