Bird flu breaks out AGIAN in Vietnam

Hanoi (dpa) – Vietnam has detected a new bird flu outbreak that has killed hundreds of ducks in a central province, the second outbreak found this month in the country, officials said Thursday.

More than 290 ducks were found dead at a small farm in Quang Tri province this month and tests were positive to H5N1, according to Hoang Van Nam, head of the National Animal Health Department.

The dead ducks were part of a flock of 600 five-day-old ducklings that had not been vaccinated, according to Nguyen Quang Vinh, head of the animal health department of Quang Tri, 580 kilometres south of Hanoi,

“We have culled all the other ducks in the flock, disinfected the farm, put a ban on poultry transport from the commune and vaccinated all the poultry in neighbouring farms,” Vinh said.

“However, we still fear that the outbreak may spread any time since the virus may remain out there somewhere,” he said.

Earlier this month, another bird flu outbreak was reported in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh after two ducks were found dead at a flock of 250. The outbreak in Tra Vinh was the first after more than two months of no reported cases of avian influenza in Vietnam.

Vietnam has been one of the country’s hardest hit by the deadly avian influenza virus known as H5N1, which has caused concern over its potential to infect humans.

At least 46 people have died from the virus, which can be passed to humans who come in contact with uncooked poultry or the poultry’s faeces.

The virus has not developed the ability to spread easily between people, but scientists worry that it could mutate to become a new human influenza strain, which could kick off a pandemic that might kill millions.

Vietnam’s aggressive poultry vaccination programme has been seen as key to controlling the disease in birds and deny it opportunity to jump to humans.

So far this year, Vietnam has vaccinated 62.6 million birds, including 39.4 million ducks and 23.2 million ducks.


Vietnam Enacts Motorbike Helmet Law

IT will be interesting to see the adoption of helmets in Vietnam- when I was little and bicycle helmets became laws, it wasn’t popular especially in the fashion stakes but after time, and money spent on promotion of the safety aspect in wearing a helmet – particular the fact that it will save lives – and – it will hit your hip pockets if you don’t, it became the norm. Hopefully this will be the case for Vietnam as well.

Vietnam Enacts Motorbike Helmet Law

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The head trauma ward at Viet Duc Hospital in Vietnam’s capital is so crammed with beds, they line both sides of the room and spill out in the hallway. All are filled with unconscious patients with head injuries — motorcyclists who crashed with no helmets.

Vietnam has one of the world’s highest traffic fatality rates, with nearly 13,000 deaths recorded last year alone — the majority involving the ubiquitous motorbike. Few people bother with helmets, saying they are hot, bulky and unfashionable. But as of Dec. 15, everyone will be required to don the so-called “rice cookers” as the government enforces a new law intended to save lives.

The Health Ministry kicked off a traffic safety campaign Wednesday to raise awareness before the new rules take effect.

“It’s not only the deaths, it’s the tens of thousands of injuries. Some people become like vegetables,” said Jean-Marc Olive, World Health Organization representative in Vietnam. “Also what is quite sad is that the major proportion of accidents occur in young adults.”

More than 20 million motorbikes cram Vietnam’s busy streets on an average day, and their numbers are growing as the country becomes wealthier. The roads are also some of the most hazardous on earth. Few drivers look before pulling into traffic. Speeding, weaving, underage driving and drunk driving are common.

Vietnam’s traffic fatality rate is about 27 per 100,000 — nearly double that of the United States and among the highest in the world, according to WHO.

But those statistics mean little to most motorbike commuters in Hanoi.

“It is an unenforceable law. Wearing helmets in cities is ridiculous,” said Nguyen Tung Anh, 21, a student in Hanoi. “It will reduce drivers’ vision, hearing and it is not suitable for the weather conditions here.”

For those who need more convincing, Dr. Vu Hong Phong says perhaps a visit to Viet Duc Hospital would work. As the chief neurosurgeon there, he races in and out of surgery every day trying to salvage what’s left of motorcyclists who slam their heads onto the pavement without helmets.

“The problem is getting worse and worse,” Phong said. “The number of deaths I’ve seen over the past several years has increased too much and I feel very sad about that.”

He lectures surviving patients and their families about the importance of wearing helmets but said his advice is heeded only about half the time, even among those who narrowly escape death.

In the head trauma ward, blood fills cotton stuffed into patients’ ears as loved ones massage limp arms and legs. Some victims thrash in pain, their arms and legs tied to bed rails. Others lie still, their heads swollen and bruised. Tubes and machines keep them alive.

“He is in a coma and there is blood on his brain,” said Dang Thi Tu, standing over her 21-year-old son, Cong. He was driving home from a wedding when he hit a rock in the road and lost control of his bike. She wishes now that his head had been protected.

“He was only a few kilometers from home, and he didn’t wear a helmet.”

Currently, helmets are only required on highways outside cities where fines the equivalent of $1.25 are levied on violators. All government employees have also been required to wear helmets since last month.

Government officials are discussing whether to raise the fine when the new law kicks in. Helmets must also be certified with a stamp verifying they meet Vietnamese safety standards.

But enforcement will be tough. When Vietnam tried to impose a helmet law in 2001, angry drivers protested and the government backed down. Some say they will only abide this time if forced.

“I cannot imagine myself wearing trendy clothes together with a helmet,” said Le Tra My, 18, who was shopping for hats at an upscale store in Hanoi. “It will look awful.”