Home » Society » Never be complacent about H7N9 avian flu

As the virulent strain H7N9 is spreading across China, tightening the cross-border trade and transport of poultry is an effective way to prevent the deadly disease from entering Vietnam.

After the WNever be complacent about H7N9 avian fluorld Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the A/H7N9 avian flu which has so far killed six in China might penetrate Vietnam, relevant Vietnamese ministries, agencies and localities have intensified preventative measures at border gates.

Customs officers, market managers, veterinarians and border guards have increased patrols at wholesale markets and checkpoints to promptly detect illegal traders and transporters of poultry of unknown origin.

Thermal scanners were installed at international border gates and airports to help detect any suspicious cases of flu-like symptoms.

Doctors warn people not to be complacent about this new strain of avian flu as it is possibly highly contagious.

Nguyen Van Kinh, Director of the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases, says the H7 avian influenza virus was first detected in 1996 with several strains, such as H7N2, H7N3, and H7N7, and they were all found in animals.

These viruses can cause conjunctivitis and mild respiratory infections in humans, but no human deaths have been reported.

The strong emergence of the H7N9 strain in China indicates that H7 flu strains are constantly mutating and evolving and becoming more virulent.

Like H5N1, H7N9 first attacks one lung and then the other within 24 hours, causing breathing difficulties. The heart and kidneys seem to be less vulnerable, but patients also show signs of muscle loss and elevated liver enzymes.

Nguyen Tran Hien, Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), says as doctors have yet to identify how this pathogenic strain is transmitted, people should know how to protect themselves from infection.

He reminds them to frequently wash their hands with soap, avoid contact with infected patients, sterilize equipment and tools with disinfectant, and wear a mask in crowded places.

People are also advised to have less contact with fowl, as the H7N9 strain is found in poultry and exotic birds and can be transmitted to humans.

The Ministry of Health has assigned the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases to draft clinical guidelines for H7N9 flu to be submitted for consideration early next week.

Scientists are still unclear about the source of infection, mode of transmission, or effective remedies, and there is no vaccine against H7N9 flu. They also do not rule out the possibility that the virus could mutate and combine with other strains into a new, even more dangerous form.

The bottom line is that preventative measures should be intensified, primarily at border gates, to nip a possible outbreak of the disease in Vietnam in the bud.

(VOV)

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