New bird flu death confirmed in Vietnam

Vietnamese officials confirmed today that a 69-year-old man has died from bird flu, the 14th person to die from the disease this year.

The man, from northern Thai Binh province, was admitted to the provincial hospital on February 19 with classic bird flu symptoms of high fever and breathing difficulties, said Pham Van Diu, director of Thai Binh Provincial Preventive Medicine Centre.

Samples taken from the man, who died on Wednesday, tested positive for the H5N1 virus, Diu said.

Since December 30, 13 people from Vietnam have died from the bird flu. Last month, a Cambodian woman died of the illness in a Vietnamese hospital.

A total of 46 people from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have perished from the bird flu over the past year.

Relatives of the latest victim said his whole family had eaten chicken, a traditional dish, during Lunar New Year festivities earlier this month, Diu said. None of them have reported any illness.

On Friday, Vietnam had reported that a 21-year-old man from the same province had tested positive for the deadly disease.

He is currently in critical condition in Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital, hospital officials there said.

Initial tests on his 14-year-old sister, who was also suspected of having contracted the virus, have come up negative.

Last week, health experts and representatives from 28 nations convened in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss long-term strategies for fighting the deadly virus, which has re-emerged in the region after devastating the poultry industry throughout Asia last year.

Experts said the H5N1 virus is now deeply entrenched in the region and international efforts should concentrate on containing the disease, minimising the risk of transmission from poultry to people.

Health experts have warned that the longer the virus remains in the environment, the greater the chance it will mutate into a highly infectious form that can be passed among humans.

Should that happen, it would spark a global pandemic that could kill millions.

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