Two new bird flu deaths suspected in Vietnam, two more sick

According to hospital officials two people showing symptoms of the bird flu virus have died in the past week in Vietnam, where the disease has already killed more than 40 people.

Dr Nguyen Ngoc Tai, the director of the Vietnam-Cuba Hospital in Dong Hoi, central Vietnam,says the diagnosis is very clear as all the critical symptoms point to bird flu.

In a report in the local press the hospital in Quang Binh province it said the victims, a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, had eaten duck and a chicken's egg around a week before they got sick.

Dr Tai said the girl was admitted to hospital on Oct. 21 and died on Oct. 23 and the man died on Oct. 26 within an hour of arriving at the hospital.

Their bodies have since been sent home to be buried.

Apparently the victims were unrelated and from different towns in the province, about 500 km (310 miles) south of the capital Hanoi.

Local health officials from Bo Trach district and Quang Trach district where the two victims lived, say chicken and ducks were on sale in local markets as usual on Saturday.

One health official at the Bo Trach district clinic has said that people are using little caution and chicken and ducks are still consumed normally, which is very worrying.

Officials also say a lack of vaccines means that poultry flocks in the two districts have not been vaccinated against bird flu.

Animal health officials said last week that delays in the delivery of the vaccines from China had delayed the completion of a national campaign to vaccinate all poultry within 15 days.

It appears that both victims had severe respiratory problems, fever and lung infection, all symptoms similar to bird flu.

Tai said a third person with symptoms of the disease had been sent to a better-equipped hospital in Hue City, central Vietnam, for treatment, while in another case a 27-year-old man is suspected to have been infected with bird flu, but in a milder form.

Dr Tai says his hospital is ill equipped to treat bird flu patients and has called for immediate supplies of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and flu vaccines to cope with the situation if more bird flu patients emerge.

World Health Organisation representatives in Vietnam were not immediately available for comment on the new cases.

Most human bird flu infections are due to handling birds sick with the virus or contact with their droppings. Cooked meat is not a known source of infection.

The latest H5N1 outbreak first surfaced in Asia in late 2003. Since then, 62 people have died in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia and the virus has spread to Europe.

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