In face of bird flu H7N9, Vietnam starts temperature screenings at airports

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Temperature screening started at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport on May 5 to stop the spread of H7N9 from China

Vietnam's health authorities have set up body temperature screening systems at its main airports as a safety measure against an outbreak of bird flu that has killed six people in China.

The screening procedures were started at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on Friday and at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday.

Vietnam made the move after China reported that influenza A (H7N9) a strain of bird flu previously unknown in humans infected 16 people, including six deaths, since early last month.

Nguyen Nhat Cam, vice director of Hanoi's Preventive Health Center, said any person who enters the capital city through Noi Bai must go through screening upon entry.

Suspicious cases will be put under health observation and tested for the virus at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nguyen Hoai Nam from the HCMC Department of Health was quoted by VnExpress as saying that 100 percent of foreign visitors, especially those from areas with flu outbreaks, must be "strictly" checked at the point of their entry.

Previously, also in an effort to stop the flu's spread from China, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Department issued bans on the import and trade of poultry over the country's borders with China.

At a meeting in Hanoi on Friday, Vietnamese health officials and experts issued more warnings and recommendations regarding H7N9, which Tran Dac Phuc, deputy chief of the health ministry's Department of Preventive Health, said is very likely to enter Vietnam.

Prof. Trinh Quan Huan, an expert with the health ministry, urged related agencies that all smuggled poultry should be tested because it probably carries the virus despite the absence of the disease's symptoms.

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If the birds do carry the virus, they are likely to infect humans with it, he warned.

Agencies must also warn people about the deaths of any poultry or wild birds found at or nearby their homes, and ask them to immediately report any discovery of such deaths to authorities, Huan said.

In the meantime, the Department of Preventive Health recommended that people eat meat from quarantined poultry only.

It said people who return from areas with outbreaks need to watch their health and inform local health agencies if they have a cough or fever. 

Nguyen Van Kinh, director of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, said all hospitalized patients had difficulties breathing, while the functions of their lungs and livers were found to be deteriorating.

The H7N9 virus is considered highly fatal by world health experts, he said.

How the virus has been transmitted from poultry to humans, however, remains unknown.

The World Health Organization previously announced that it was investigating the outbreak in China, and that so far there has been no evidence that the virus is transmitted between people.

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