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Bird flu kills 2 in Vietnam, regional death toll hits 60
Updated: 2005-07-29 16:00

Bird flu has killed two more people in Vietnam, a week before the country is expected to begin a mass vaccination of poultry, an official said Friday, reported AP.

A 24-year-old man from Tra Vinh province died on Monday and a 26-year-old woman from Ho Chi Minh City died Wednesday, said Phan Van Tu, chief virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

He said both tested positive for the bird flu virus on Thursday, bringing the regional human death toll to 60.

The World Health Organization has officially reported 38 deaths in Vietnam. However, Vietnamese health officials have said a 72-year-old man from Hanoi died June 28. That death, along with the two others reported this week, have not yet been recorded by WHO. The organization does not update tolls until new deaths are officially confirmed by the Ministry of Health, a process that often takes weeks.

Tu said both deaths could be traced to contact with poultry and were the first reported cases of avian influenza in humans in southern Vietnam since January.

He said the pattern was similar to last year, when Vietnam experienced human bird flu in the winter months and then saw cases drop off before resurfacing again in the summer months.

Next week, Vietnam is to begin a mass vaccination of chickens and ducks in two provinces to try to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed 41 people in the country since late 2003.

If the vaccination produces positive results, Vietnam plans to extend the program to most other provinces by the end of the year.

Last week, Indonesia reported its first bird flu deaths after a 38-year-old man and his two young daughters tested positive for the disease. The virus has also claimed 12 people from Thailand and four from Cambodia.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly warned that avian influenza could mutate and become easily spread from person to person, sparking a global pandemic that could kill millions. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with sick birds.

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