Vietnamese authorities are still dealing with two old types of flu, H5N1 and H1N1, while having to address the threat of a new type, H7N9, spreading from China.
Viet Nam News spoke to stakeholders about Viet Nam’s responses.
Nguyen Thanh Long Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, speaking at a press briefing on Saturday
As of now, Viet Nam has no recorded cases of H7N9 infection in humans or poultry.
The threat is high if drastic measures are not taken. The virus might be introduced across the border by people and through the smuggling of tonnes of frozen poultry from China. What makes it so difficult to respond to the H7N9 threat is that we still do not know of the source of infection, mode of transmission or the treatment.
Meanwhile, there is no immunity against it since there has been no vaccine available. And given what is happening in China now – 128 infected cases and 27 deaths in just a month – there is a fear that if H7N9 turns out to be a human virus, it will trigger a pandemic. We will be in a very serious situation so we’d better get prepared.
As soon as we receive information from China, we quickly activate our surveillance and diagnosis systems to prepare ourselves against H7N9. Although the symptoms of H7N9 in the early stage is the same as other types of influenza, we can detect the differences with molecular tests. These tests can be run at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and other institutions. We also strengthen surveillance at border gates by giving people temperature checks to make sure they are not importing the disease.
While staying on the high alert at the threat of H7N9, my ministry is also closely watching for other types of influenza. There is a sign that H1N1 is making a comeback and the number of cases is increasing in Viet Nam, which raises concerns of a pandemic. However, the general public should not be too worried because it is a seasonal influenza, has mild severity. The important thing is that existing vaccines and drugs work.
H5N1 is among flu viruses that cause severe respiratory syndromes. The mortality rate among infected people is about 60 to 70 per cent. Poultry are the source of this type of flu, so if we make sure the birds do not get infected, we protect humans.
Currently, there is no vaccine for H5N1 in Viet Nam, but we plan to distribute one by the end of this year after seven years of research. The vaccination will go to highly vulnerable groups, such as poultry farmers.