Bird flu kills four civets in Vietnam national park

HANOI, March 11 (Reuters) – Bird flu killed four civets in a Vietnamese national park, the second time the rare type of mammal was reported to have died there of the H5N1 virus since 2005, a park official said on Tuesday.

Four endangered Owston’s palm civets died early last month at Cuc Phuong park and tests of their samples found they had the H5N1 virus, the official said.

“Visitors are not allowed to come near the civet’s area now,” the official said by telephone from the park about 90 km (55 miles) south of Hanoi in Ninh Binh province.

In June 2005 three civets, born in captivity and raised in the same cage, died at the park and tests later confirmed they had been infected by bird flu, park officials said. The park has eight of the rare cat-like civets left.

Civets eat pork, worms and fruit, but not poultry.

However, Ninh Binh is one of nine locations where outbreaks have been detected among poultry in the past month, including a farm outside Hanoi, the Animal Health Department said.

It is not the first time that bird flu has killed exotic animals. The H5N1 virus has infected ostriches in South Africa, a clouded leopard and tigers in Thailand.

One of China’s top doctors has said that the H5N1 virus has shown signs of mutation and can kill humans more easily if treatment is not given early enough, newspapers reported on Tuesday [ID:nHKG228879].

The H5N1 virus has infected 368 people around the world since 2003, killing 234 of them, including 51 in Vietnam.

Experts fear it could trigger a pandemic killing millions if it ever transmits efficiently among people. (Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; editing by Grant McCool and Sanjeev Miglani)