Amidst preparations being made to cope with the new bird flu virus strain H7N9 that has killed seven people in China, the Vietnamese Health Ministry has warned that the new strain is more dangerous than the H5N1 strain.
The warning was released by the ministry’s council of experts at a meeting yesterday to adopt instructions on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the H7N9 virus, for which there is no vaccine, said Nguyen Van Kinh, director of the Central Tropical Diseases Hospital. Such instructions were issued amidst worry that the new deadly virus may penetrate Vietnam from China, Kinh said, adding that the information collected from Chinese hospitals shows that the new strain is more dangerous than the previous one, H5N1. The recent outbreaks of the H7N9 strain in China have proved that avian flu strains are constantly mutating and becoming more deadly. Compared to H5N1, the H7N9 causes pneumonia to develop more rapidly and induces a higher fatality among patients, up to 70-80 percent, Kinh warned. Similar to H5N1, H7N9 first attacks one lung and then the other, thereby causing breathing problems. It seems that the heart and kidneys are less vulnerable to the new strain, but patients have signs of more muscle loss, Kinh said. Also on Wednesday Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien inspected the precautions being taken to tackle the new bird flu at Tan Son Nhat Airport and some hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City. During her inspections, she called on all health units to be well prepared to cope with the deadly virus. She also warned that the country is coping with not only a possible penetration of the H7N9 virus from China but also new possible outbreaks of H5N1 flu spread in from Cambodia. A representative of Pediatric Hospital No 1 in HCMC told the minister that the hospital has set up eight mobile anti-flu teams and two separate rooms for patients in critical condition. The hospital’s emergency wards can receive 180 flu patients at a time. Pediatric Hospital No 2, also in HCMC, said they can use up to 30 beds for flu patients at a time when necessary. Meanwhile, the Medical Examination and Treatment and Department requests that all hospitals send samples of patients with serious pneumonia, which is caused by unknown reasons or suspected to be caused by the deadly virus, to the HCMC Pasteur Institute for testing. To date, a total of 24 cases have been laboratory-confirmed with the H7N9 virus in China, including seven deaths, 14 severe cases and three mild cases, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. As reported, HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat Airport has used tele-thermometers to measure the body temperatures of all visitors to HCMC for detection of abnormality since last Saturday, April 6. A similar precaution has also been carried out at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, where two temperature scanners are currently in operation.