Somethings you don’t have to keep saying and others bear repeating. This is one that bears repeating because most of us would rather believe we are making progress on combatting avian influenza.
The exemplar in the fight was Vietnam, the country still with the most confirmed human cases (Indonesia has the most deaths), but also a country that registered no new cases, human or poultry, since a year ago November (some isolated cases of stork infection were reported in August). Vietnam’s supposed success was attributed to a vigorous program of vaccinating birds and banning live markets in Hanoi. But now the virus is back in Vietnamese poultry and is spreading in two southern provinces:
Additional cases of the deadly H5N1 virus were detected in Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces in the Mekong delta, with nearly 8,400 poultry dead or culled, the national animal health department said on its website.
The two provinces were the first to report major outbreaks of bird flu in the communist nation in the past year. (TerraNet)
Vietnam and the UN are launching an “awareness program” on TV and radio. It will likely be successful in reinforcing awareness, as was a similar program in Cambodia. Unfortunately the Cambodian program didn’t alter risky poultry handling practices, and the Vietnamese one probably won’t either. Most people expect more cases:
The campaign comes as the trade and transport of poultry are expected to increase ahead of the traditional new year festival known as Tet, in mid-February.
The new outbreaks highlight “that the risk of recurrence of avian influenza remains,” said Andrew Speedy, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s representative in Vietnam.
“With increased demand for poultry leading up to Tet, we need to be highly vigilant, particularly with respect to poultry raised and marketed illegally,” he said.
The World Health Organisation also urged authorities to enhance “surveillance for possible human cases, alerting healthcare facilities and strengthening health messaging to affected communities”.
National authorities in Vietnam are blaming the locals, but all this will do is make it more likely outbreaks will be covered up. The virus has been there the whole time and is making its seasonal appearance. At least the outbreak is once again raising the index of suspicion regarding human cases, making it more likely any true cases will be detected and reported.
This virus is thoroughly entrenched in asia, southeast asia and probably parts of Africa. It isn’t going away, regardless of whether the news agencies are interested in it or not or whether it is reported or not reported or whether it is detected or not detected.
It’s still out there and it will be out there for the foreseeable future. That’s what bears repeating.