Bird flu outbreaks have continued to spread in Vietnam, while a man suspected of being infected with the virus fled a hospital quarantine unit, state-controlled media reported Friday. The southern Mekong Delta province of Long An became the newest area to report bird flu outbreaks among poultry, the Department of Animal Health said on its Web site.
Outbreaks have been reported in 19 other provinces throughout the country since October, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 1 million birds, it said. Meanwhile, a man was admitted Thursday to the General Hospital in southern Tien Giang province with a high fever and difficulty breathing, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said. He was transferred to an isolation ward, left to buy personal items and never returned, it said.
The man told doctors he slaughtered his sick chickens a week before falling ill, the newspaper said. Officials in his home province of Ben Tre have been trying to pursuade the man to return to the hospital, it said.
In addition, Friday's Pioneer newspaper reported that the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance have jointly asked Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to provide financial assistance of 5,000 dong (31 U.S. cents) per bird for farmers in unaffected areas who raise more than 500 poultry to try to lessen their losses.
The proposal comes as more and more people shy away from poultry, making it increasingly difficult for farmers to sell their products. The ministries also requested rescheduling debts for poultry farmers for one year, it said. The government currently offers 15,000 dong (95 U.S. cents) to farmers forced to slaughter their poultry in areas hit by the virus.
At least 67 people have died from bird flu in Asia since 2003, the bulk of them in Vietnam. Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a contagious form that spreads easily from person to person. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with birds, reports the AP. I.L.