Ninh Thuan on Friday became the first province in Vietnam to officialy acknowledge that the bird flu outbreak has taken place among swifts raised for profitable nests at a local farm.
Around 10,000 swifts at Thanh Binh farm in Phan Rang Town have been culled as of Friday, the Ninh Thuan provincial adminsitration said.
The mass cull was ordered Thursday after the influenza A (H5N1) virus has been found among the farm's 100,000 swifts for the first time in Vietnam and the world.
Dang Pham Minh Loan, general director of Yen Viet Company, which runs the Thanh Binh farm, said the cull would cause her company to incur losses of tens of billions of dong.
The Vietnamese government has not chalked out any plans to bail out farm owners whose swifts are subject to compulsory cull because of an epidemic.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the Animal Health Center VI announced that samples taken from dead birds at the farm where nearly 5,000 swifts have died since the end of March tested positive for H5N1, Tien Phong (Pioneer) reported Wednesday.
The samples taken from living birds, their nests and feces, however, tested negative for the virus, said the center, which is under the agriculture ministry's Animal Health Department.
Conversely, the Nha Trang branch of the Pasteur Institute did find H5N1 in the five samples of living birds it took from one of the two farms, the newspaper quoted Phan Thi Lai, vice director of Ninh Thuan Health Department, as saying.
According to Nguyen Xuan Binh, director of the Animal Health Center VI, these cases represent the first two outbreaks of bird flu to ever be recorded among farmed swifts worldwide.
All the swifts at the farms must be destroyed, while their nests must be exposed to high temperatures, as the virus dies at 80 degrees Celsius, the official explained.
Experts in the field have urged health authorities to proceed gingerly before officially announcing a bird flu outbreak among swifts.
If it is concluded that the birds were killed by H5N1, it will be a "big problem" and severely affect bird nest businesses, they said.
Since the business cropped up in Vietnam in 2004, thousands of families have made their livings on it and invested as much as tens of thousands of dollars in their farms, she said.
In fact, since it was announced that some dead swifts had been found with H5N1, many bird nest shops in Ninh Thuan have seen their sales plummeting.
It has been reported that one kilogram of bird nest is now estimated to be US$1,600-1,800.
The H5N1-caused bird flu has caused at least 62 deaths among 123 infected patients in Vietnam since 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The first human fatality from H5N1 in Vietnam in more than a year a four-year-old child was reported last week.
People can become infected from direct or close contact with fowl carrying the virus, which is deadly among domesticated ducks and chickens.
To combat human cases of bird flu, Vietnam has been vaccinating farmed fowl and treating infected people with the antiviral Tamiflu.
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