Bird flu has killed a man in northern Vietnam in the country’s second death from the illness this year, and health officials warned Thursday that the virus could spread further.
The 40-year-old man from Hai Duong province died Wednesday, six days after being admitted to the national tropical disease hospital in the capital, Hanoi, said Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Ministry of Health’s Preventive Medicine Department.
The man’s test results came back positive Sunday for the dangerous H5N1 virus strain. He was the 49th person to die of the virus in Vietnam since bird flu began raging across Asia in late 2003. H5N1 killed a 32-year-old man in northern Tuyen Quang province in January.
Nga said the latest victim developed flu symptoms on Feb. 2 and was admitted to the Hanoi hospital Feb. 10.
“The danger of the bird flu virus spreading further remains very high,” Nga said “We have repeatedly urged people to report sick poultry to animal health authorities and to refrain from eating sick birds.”
Dong Van Chuc, director of the Department of Animal Health in Hai Duong, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Hanoi, said nine of the man’s 12 fighting cocks had died since late January.
Chuc said the man’s wife cooked the dead chickens and shared them with a relative, then cremated the three sick birds, meaning that animal health officials could not test any of their flock for the bird flu virus.
No members of the man’s family have fallen ill, but health authorities were testing them and close neighbors for the virus, Chuc said.
Bird flu remains hard for people to catch, but health experts worry the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds. The World Health Organization says at least 226 people have died worldwide from the virus. That number does not include the latest death in Vietnam.