04/08/2005, 00.00
VIETNAM
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The UN on bird flu: Vietnam swiftly break news of cases of contagion

According to the United Nations, non-existent communication systems make prevention an impossible task. Meanwhile, Hanoi confirms the infection of an entire family of five people in the north of the country.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – United Nations representatives and the central government of Hanoi have released a document about the situation of bird flu in Vietnam.

In the text, Anton Rychener, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), charges: "Besides the extremely high mortality rate of H5N1 – higher than that of Ebola – there is a serious problem of internal communication. Local people do not understand that the authorities, both local and international, can do little to defeat the disease if they are not informed in good time about cases of infection."

Nguyen Duy Long, head of the veterinary department of Long An province, confirms the charges and explains that many deaths among both animals and humans could easily be avoided. "Villages must send information about real or supposed infection as quickly as possible, to allow central bodies to intervene in the best way," he said, adding: "However, in many regions of the country, monitoring and information networks are non-existent."

The UN gives an account of the example of Chau Hoa commune in Quang Binh province. Here, in February, around 200 people contracted the H5N1 virus in the initial stage after eating chicken meat at New Year festivities. Phan Huy Hoang, deputy head of the province, said: "Our veterinary officials learned that some chickens were killed during the Tet, but we were not informed of the fact that it was bird flu, so we did not inform the authorities in Hanoi and we did not monitor the situation."

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Health minister confirmed that another five people have been contaminated. The cases developed in a family in the northern port city of Haiphong.

Since January 2004, the virus has infected 60 people and killed 35 in Vietnam.

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