Potential New Strain of Avian Flu

Scientists and biologists in Vietnam are worried about signs that a new strain of the avian flu, H1N1, may be spreading in Vietnam and could potentially spread across Southeast Asia and to other parts of the globe. The discovery was uncovered during routine monitoring of Vietnamese farms by world health officials as part of an ongoing effort to combat the bird flu.

The initial results of the avian flu study are mixed, presenting reasons to fear a new outbreak and ways to prevent future outbreaks. Scientists from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization detected possible signs of a new strain of H1N1 in early 2011. In both northern and central Vietnam, there were signs of this new strain among chickens on poultry farms throughout the region.

While the FAO reported that there were no signs of an immediate outbreak, scientists were concerned that the new strain may be arriving at a particularly bad time for Vietnamese farmers. With vaccinations coverage declining in Vietnam, some scientists worry that a new strain could potentially spread rapidly and that there is an increased risk period in the near future.

According to scientists from the World Health Organization, Vietnam and many other Southeast Asians countries have seen sporadic outbreaks of avian flu for several years. As such, these new cases may not represent a new potential outbreak, but merely an ongoing uptick in cases partly caused by lax farm regulations.

These lax regulations, the report said, needed to be corrected as part of a larger effort to control the spread of H1N1. Given the unlikelihood of eradicating the disease, the best course of treatment is to limit its spread between farms and from animals to humans through increased regulation and government monitoring.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer