Bird flu has spread to a quarter of Vietnam's provinces as officials on Friday reported outbreaks in poultry in two new northern provinces. Officials said test results on chickens in Thai Binh and Bac Ninh provinces proved positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, bringing to 17 of Vietnam's 64 cities and provinces that have been infected within the last month.
Vietnam has been battling the H5N1 virus since it re-emerged across poultry farms in late 2003. At least 67 people have died in the region from bird flu since then, with about two thirds of those deaths in Vietnam.
The country has taken increasingly tough measures against bird flu as the winter months approach, when the virus is more stable and most likely to spread.
In northern Bac Ninh province, tests results released Friday on samples taken from a flock of chickens at a commercial farm were positive for bird flu, said Nguyen Van Lung, director of the provincial animal health department.
Thai Binh provincial animal health director Dang Duc Rieu said 40 chickens had fallen ill and died early in the week. The entire flock of 100 birds was killed the same day. Tests results Friday showed they had bird flu, he said.
Provincial animal health officials said all poultry in the town was destroyed Friday afternoon.
Thirteen of the 17 affected provinces are in the northern region, while two are in central Vietnam and two in the southern Mekong Delta.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai approved another 1.3 billion dong (US$82.6 million; Ђ70.65 million) for the fight against bird flu in Vietnam, as the government announced plans for its first large-scale emergency drill later this month.
The bulk of the funding will be used to upgrade medical facilities, buy more equipment, and stockpile medicines for the treatment of bird flu patients, reports the AP. I.L.