Vietnam's Prime Minister Phan Van Khai called on the army and police to mobilize in the fight against bird flu as outbreaks continued to spread around the country, state-controlled media reported Friday. In a telegram sent to ministries and provincial governments Thursday, Khai urged local governments at all levels to "mobilize the armed forces, militiamen and university students" to engage in the fight against bird flu and not allow outbreaks to re-emerge, the Pioneer newspaper said.
It was unclear exactly how they would be deployed.
The prime minister also called for closer surveillance, down to the village level, and instructed local governments to be open and transparent when outbreaks occurred in their area. They should announce the outbreaks and publish the information in state media, he said.
Worst-hit Vietnam has reported two-thirds of the 64 human deaths attributed to the H5N1 strain of bird flu in Asia since it appeared in late 2003.
Bird flu outbreaks among poultry have been reported in at least six provinces around the country in the past month, killing or forcing the cull of more than 130,000 poultry. Most of the poultry that died were ducks, a major change from last year when ducks were identified as carriers of the virus but did not become ill.
Experts agree that a global human pandemic is inevitable, but it is unknown when that will occur, and whether the H5N1 bird flu strain will be the source from which a new human flu virus emerges. Most of the human deaths from the H5N1 virus have been associated with close contact with birds. However, if the virus mutates and becomes easily transmitted between humans, it could cause millions of deaths. The first major international coordination meeting on a strategy to prevent and prepare for a pandemic was held in Geneva this week.
This week, Vietnam sent eight Cabinet members, including all three deputy prime ministers, to the provinces to inspect how local officials have implemented measures to control bird flu, reports AP. I.L.