Vietnam is on high alert over bird flu after the virus killed thousands of birds in three provinces, having claimed its third human victim of the year last week, the communist government said Wednesday.
The north of Vietnam has been in the grip of a cold snap that has lasted for over a month, bringing rare ice and snow to mountain tops, killing crops and livestock and heightening the risk of flu and other respiratory diseases.
The latest bird flu outbreaks killed nearly 2,500 unvaccinated chicken, ducks and geese in the northern Hai Duong, Nam Dinh and Tuyen Quang provinces, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry said in an online report.
Seven of Vietnam's 64 provinces and municipalities are now on the bird flu watchlist after reporting poultry cases in the past 21 days -- also including northern Thai Nguyen and Quang Ninh, central Quang Binh and southern Long An.
'We will go on nationwide red alert on the risk of bird flu over the next few days,' Bui Ba Bong, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, was quoted as telling the Thanh Nien daily newspaper.
'Preventing and fighting H5N1 outbreaks in poultry is extremely urgent and important in preventing and curbing H5N1 outbreaks among humans,' he said, pointing to four human deaths since late December.
Bird flu killed a 27-year-old man from northern Ninh Binh province on February 14 -- raising the national death toll from the virus to 50 -- having earlier this year claimed the lives of two other men aged 40 and 32.
All of the victims had handled infected poultry, officials said.
The World Health Organisation has so far confirmed 361 human cases of H5N1 bird flu worldwide, of which 227 have died, not including Vietnam's latest case.
The virus is mainly an animal disease, but scientists fear it could mutate to easily jump from human to human, sparking a deadly global pandemic.