04 Mar 2014 -- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) briefed the diplomatic community in Hanoi on avian influenza A (H7N9) to raise awareness about the virus that has emerged in both poultry and humans in China and its potential risk to Viet Nam.
Viet Nam has recently stepped up efforts to prevent and respond to the potential spread of H7N9 into the country. The virus is present in China in both human and poultry populations and has recently been detected in Guangxi province which shares a border with four of Viet Nam’s Northern provinces. Of further concern is that it is a low-pathogenic virus in poultry, and therefore difficult to track since it will not cause bird die-offs.
“Viet Nam’s agricultural sector is actively engaged in preventing the H7N9 virus from entering the country through poultry populations and is prepared for early detection if it should arrive, “said Dr. Scott Newman, FAO’s senior technical coordinator. However, he emphasized the importance of enhancing the sustainability of prevention measures, and the need to consider longer-term planning to prevent impacts to the poultry sector, livelihoods and public health from H7N9 and other influenza viruses that may emerge.
Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Representative said, “At this point in time, there is no evidence of H7N9 in either humans or poultry in Viet Nam. However, this does not mean we can be complacent given that viruses are now more mobile than in previous years as a result of increased international travel and trade, as well as changes in ecosystems.” He also emphasized the importance of precautionary safety measures including hand and respiratory hygiene.
FAO reiterated that it is safe to eat poultry meat and products such as eggs as long as they have been cooked thoroughly, ensuring that no part of the meat remains pink or bloody, and that egg yolks are hard and not runny. FAO emphasized that all influenza viruses are inactivated by normal cooking temperatures and people should not eat poultry that is clearly sick, has died unexpectedly, or comes from an unknown source.
Viet Nam has well tested surveillance systems, health capacity, and technical resources available to ensure early detection of avian influenza viruses and a robust public health response should H7N9 appear in Viet Nam. This is a result of the country’s lessons learned from previous outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1 and H5N1. WHO and FAO continue to collaborate and expand activities between Viet Nam’s animal and health sectors in response to the H7N9 virus.