( dpa ) - A Vietnamese man who died on January 20 was suffering from avian flu, a health official confirmed Wednesday.
Nguyen Huy Nga, director of Vietnam's Department of Preventive Medicine, said tests had shown Wednesday that Tran Van Dong, who died January 20 at Hanoi's Bach Mai hospital, was infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
It was the second avian flu death in Vietnam in two months, and the 48th overall since the disease was first detected here in 2003.
Dong, 32, was admitted to a hospital on January 18 in his home province of Tuyen Quang, north of Hanoi, complaining of high fever and difficulty breathing. He was transferred to Bach Mai hospital on January 19.
"Earlier, two chickens and four ducks [Dong] raised at home had died," said Dao Duy Quyet, director of Tuyen Quang's provincial health department. "He ate the dead birds before he fell ill."
Four provinces in Vietnam have seen outbreaks of avian flu among birds and poultry since the start of the year. Authorities have culled a total of over 2,000 ducks and chickens in the affected provinces to prevent the disease from spreading.
At one farm in central Quang Binh province, some 1,400 ducks died of H5N1 in the week beginning January 10. Authorities culled the farm's remaining ducks and placed a ban on transport to curtail the virus's spread, said the head of Quang Binh's animal health department, Pham Hong Son.
"With cold weather, the possibility that the outbreak will expand is very high," Son said. "We fear the situation will get worse."
Avian flu has largely appeared in Vietnam during the cool winter months, though in recent years outbreak have occurred in summer as well.
Authorities have generally applauded Vietnam's efforts to control the disease, which have included twice-yearly national campaigns to vaccinate all of the country's 150 million ducks and chickens.
H5N1 mainly affects poultry and wild birds, but can infect humans who have close contact with sick fowl. Scientists fear that if it spreads unchecked, the disease could mutate into a form which could be transmitted between humans, leading to a worldwide pandemic that could kill millions.