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Bird flu claims 5th death in Vietnam in three weeks
Updated: 2005-01-19 11:32

Bird flu has claimed its fifth human death in three weeks, officials said Wednesday after a 35-year-old woman died of the virus in southern Vietnam.

The woman from Tra Vinh province died Tuesday after spending a week breathing with a respirator at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, said Huynh Thanh Liem, deputy director of Tra Vinh's Preventive Medicine Center.

The woman developed high fever, coughing and lung failure four days after she was hired by a neighbor to slaughter sick ducks for sale, and she tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, he said. Some of the ducks were eaten by members of her family, but none of her relatives showed signs of the disease, he added.

World health experts fear that bird flu might mutate and create the next influenza pandemic. So far, there has been no concrete evidence of human-to-human transmission of bird flu. Most patients have had contact with sick birds.

The virus has killed at least 25 people in Vietnam and 12 people in Thailand over the past year. Vietnam has now reported five bird flu deaths since Dec. 30 _ its first string of fatalities since an outbreak abated in September.

Bird flu outbreaks among poultry have been reported across Vietnam in recent weeks, killing or forcing the cull of nearly 300,000 birds in 18 out of the country's 64 provinces.

All of the human victims have been from the country's south.

Cooler, more humid temperatures and the hectic transportation of poultry ahead of the Lunar New Year festival in early February increases the risks of bird flu spreading, said Dau Ngoc Hao, deputy director of the animal health department.

But Vietnam is better prepared this year, following lessons learned during last year's outbreak, Hao said. "With the experiences from last year, hopefully we can minimize the damages," he said.

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