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News & features archive, 2009

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:

  • Don't buy or sell poultry that are sick or have died
  • Don't slaughter or eat poultry that have been sick (or died of a sickness)
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products (no pink meat or runny eggs)
  • Avoid contact with sick and dead poultry
  • Wash hands with clean water and soap after contacting with poultry and before eating
  • Immediately report sick or dead poultry to veterinary officials and local authorities
  • People with fever of more than 38 degrees C should go to their local health station for evaluation, especially if there is sick or dead poultry in surrounding environment


  • Bird flu kills but it can be prevented

WHO and FAO continue to offer assistance to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. They are working with officials on responding to the avian influenza threat and on strengthening national capacity and influenza pandemic preparedness plans. Indeed, there is a strong partnership between the Government and the One UN Team, and with the International Donors.


Since its re-emergence in 2003, there have been 109 confirmed human cases of avian influenza in Viet Nam. 53 people have died.

In 2008 avian influenza killed 5 people in Viet Nam.

In 2009 one death has been recorded.

For more information, please contact:
Shelaye Boothey
WHO Communications Officer, Viet Nam
Email: [email protected]

Useful links

Avian Influenza

Food safety