HANOI (Reuters) – Two people showing symptoms of the bird flu virus have died in the past week in Vietnam, where the disease has already killed more than 40 people, hospital officials said on Saturday.
"It”s very, very clear that all the critical symptoms pointed to bird flu," Dr Nguyen Ngoc Tai, the director of the Vietnam-Cuba Hospital in Dong Hoi, central Vietnam, told Reuters.
The Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted a report from the hospital in Quang Binh province as saying the victims, a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, had eaten duck and a chicken”s egg around a week before they got sick.
The girl was admitted to hospital on October 21 and died on October 23 and the man died on October 26 within an hour of arriving at the hospital. Their bodies had been sent home to be buried, Tai said.
He said the victims were not related and from different towns in the province, about 500 km (310 miles) south of the capital Hanoi.
Health officials from Bo Trach district and Quang Trach district where the two victims lived told Reuters chicken and ducks were on sale in local markets as usual on Saturday.
"People are taking absolutely no caution at all and chicken and ducks are still consumed normally, which is very worrying," said one health official at the Bo Trach district clinic.
Officials also said poultry flocks in the two districts had not been vaccinated against bird flu due to lack of vaccines.
Last week animal health officials said delays in the delivery of the vaccines from China had pushed back completion of a national campaign to vaccinate all poultry within 15 days.
The health officials said both victims had severe respiratory problems, fever and lung infection — symptoms similar to bird flu.
Tai said a third person with symptoms of the disease had been sent to a better-equipped hospital in Hue City, central Vietnam, for treatment.
"There is another case of a 27-year-old man who is suspected to have been infected with bird flu, but in a milder form."
Tai said his hospital was ill equipped to treat bird flu patients and called for immediate supplies of the antiviral drug Tamiflu and flu vaccines to cope with the situation if more bird flu patients emerged.
World Health Organization representatives in Vietnam were not immediately available for comment on the new cases.
Most human bird flu infections are due to handling birds sick with the virus or contact with their droppings. Cooked meat is not a known source of infection.
The latest H5N1 outbreak first surfaced in Asia in late 2003. Since then, 62 people have died in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia and the virus has spread to Europe.