Vigilance needed to protect public against avian influenza
February 24, 2009 ľ With three new human cases of avian influenza (H5N1) reported in the country in as many months and poultry outbreaks identified in a number of provinces, two UN agencies in Viet Nam today warned that renewed vigilance was needed to protect against the disease.
"While avian influenza poses a threat to humans and poultry throughout the year, experience in Viet Nam has shown that the threat is highest at this time of year, " Said Dr. Jean‑Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in Viet Nam.
Strong action by the Government and local authorities has resulted in the number of outbreaks in poultry steadily decreasing in recent years. Nevertheless, avian influenza remains endemic in Viet Nam.
Whenever there are poultry outbreaks, humans are inevitably put at risk of infection as shown by the recent human cases in Viet Nam.
“The animal and public health sectors need to work closely together to minimize the ever-present threats of avian influenza and other animal-based diseases passing to humans.” said Dr Andrew Speedy, FAO Representative.
The avian influenza virus is still not able to infect humans easily, but when it does occur it has a very high fatality rate (approx 50%).
The avian influenza virus is also not currently able to spread easily between humans but influenza viruses are known for their ability to change quickly and can become more adapted to humans with dire consequences.
“There is a real possibility that the virus will mutate and become easily transmissible between humans. If this occurs we could see the start of a new influenza pandemic,” said Dr. Olivé.
“We – the UN, the Government and the public – have a responsibility to remain alert and to renew our efforts to protect against this disease and prevent a new influenza pandemic.
“Early detection and rapid response avian influenza is the key,” he said
You can protect yourself, your family and your community from this very serious threat through the following key actions: