Friday, September 16, 2005

US, Vietnam announce tie-up to fight killer flu viruses

US, Vietnam announce tie-up to fight killer flu viruses Thursday September 15, 03:03 PM
HANOI (AFP) - US and Vietnamese authorities announced they would boost Vietnam's surveillance network to fight influenza viruses including the killer bird flu, which has caused more than 60 deaths in the region.
Under the accord, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology 500,000 dollars.
"This network focuses on systematic collection of information about influenza, information about what viruses are causing it, Advertisment
how they are being spread and how fast," US ambassador Michael Marine said Thursday.
The initiative was announced hours after a call by President George W. Bush for "new international partnership" aimed at preventing avian influenza and other new strains of flu from becoming a pandemic.
"This project is anticipated to total 2.5 million dollars over the next five years, subject to funding availability," Marine said, adding the plan had been prepared independently of Bush's call.
Vietnamese and foreign experts in Hanoi have long urged the need for a rapid response to the first clinical signs of the disease among both poultry and humans, even before focusing on detecting mutations of the virus or research on vaccines.

Many people in the country of 82 million are beyond the authorities' easy reach. Despite public warnings and regular media coverage, a large part of the rural population remains under-informed.
Nguyen Tran Hien, director of NIHE, said the specific goal now was to "boost the quality of information about flu outbreaks in different seasons."
The project would help Vietnam monitor the spread of viruses, prevent and fight outbreaks and take part in a global network to monitor influenza, Hien said.
Marine said: "Vietnam will thus contribute to the world's knowledge of circulating influenza viruses, also improving its ability to protect its population and also the rest of the world."
The United States Congress has earmarked 25 million dollars to deal with bird flu. "We are currently working on how to distribute it," Marine said.
Bush told the UN General Assembly in New York that bird flu "could become the first pandemic of the 21st century."
"We must not allow that to happen," he said, reiterating dire warnings by health experts that the virus could spark a global pandemic if it develops the ability to spread quickly among humans.
The World Health Organisation welcomed the US help.
"We are very pleased because it will provide some financial basis enhancing influenza surveillance," said WHO epidemiologist in Vietnam, Peter Horby.
"They are going to be able to fund doing regular surveillance, centred on hospitals throughout the country which would entail taking some information and samples from people with influenza-like illness and then testing those samples to see if it is influenza and which subtype it is.
"It'll give us a much better understanding of what's happening in Vietnam," Horby said.
Vietnamese authorities said earlier this month the risk of bird flu passing from poultry to humans was high and the situation could worsen in the coming cooler months.
They have been carrying out in stages a nationwide mass poultry vaccination campaign which is scheduled to end by mid-November.


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