Hundreds of ducks have contracted avian flu in Vietnam's southernmost province, local officials said Monday.
More than 460 ducks on a farm in the Tran Van Thoi district of Ca Mau province tested positive Friday for the H5N1 virus, the bird-flu strain that can be deadly in humans, reported dpa.
"This is the first occurrence of bird flu in our district," said Su Van Minh, deputy head of the district's avian-flu-control committee. "We have culled all infected ducks and disinfected the surrounding area to prevent the virus from spreading to other farms."
Lam Minh Tuan, chairman of the commune where the outbreak occurred, said there had originally been more than 700 ducks in the affected flock. Dozens of ducks per day began dying on January 19 but duck farmer Nguyen Van Dong did not inform local authorities until January 29, Tuan said.
"Luckily, no one in Dong's family ate any of the sick ducks," Tuan said.
Tuan said most of the ducks in Dong's flocks had not been vaccinated against H5N1.
The outbreak might have spread to a neighboring village, where 20 ducks recently died. Authorities took samples from the dead birds for testing.
Tuan said local authorities had established inspection teams and were vaccinating all fowl in his commune.
Vietnam's government has required all domestic fowl to be vaccinated for avian influenza since 2005. But in practice, many ducks and chickens on small local farms go unvaccinated, and animal health experts said the goal of inoculating every fowl in the country is unrealistic.
Vietnam's first human case of bird flu this year was reported in January when a 13-year-old girl from Thanh Hoa province, 150 kilometres south of Hanoi, tested positive for the virus. The girl's older sister had died on January 2 in Thanh Hoa after displaying symptoms consistent with bird flu, but doctors failed to test for the virus, and her body was not disintered for testing for religious reasons.
Avian influenza has infected 106 people in Vietnam and killed 52 since it first appeared in the country in late 2003.
The disease is usually spread by contact between sick birds and humans, but scientists fear that the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible among humans and could spark a global pandemic that could kill millions.