Four members of a family in southern Vietnam have been hospitalized with symptoms of bird flu, a doctor said Saturday, the first suspected human cases in the country in more than a year.
A 36-year-old woman and her three children aged three to 13 were admitted to Nam Can Hospital in Ca Mau province this past week with fevers, coughing, decreased white blood cells and damaged lungs, said Ho Van Van, a doctor at the hospital.
The family had four chickens and five ducks, and ate one of the chickens, which had fallen sick and died, on Dec. 23, he said.
Swab samples from the four patients are being tested for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, Van said. Health officials have disinfected the family's house and neighborhood, he added.
Vietnam has been widely seen as a model for how to fight bird flu using extensive vaccinations of poultry, careful surveillance and slaughters of birds in affected areas.
However, earlier this month, it reported its first bird flu outbreaks in poultry in a year in Ca Mau and two other provinces in the Mekong Delta.
The outbreaks killed or forced the slaughter of more than 13,000 birds in the three provinces.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung decided on Friday to send 11 Cabinet members to the provinces to direct the fight against bird flu, Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan (People) reported Saturday.
Vietnam has recorded at least 42 human deaths from the H5N1 virus since late 2003, according to the World Health Organization. The country's last reports human case was in November 2005.
At least 157 people out of 261 known to have been infected with H5N1 worldwide have died, WHO says.
Most of those who died came into direct contact with sick birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that can be easily passed among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.