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Vietnam Bird Flu Death a Call for Action, Say Experts

Vietnam's first human death from bird flu in more than a year has highlighted growing complacency among farmers in fighting the virus that remains endemic in the country, experts said Sunday . A 20-year-old man from a province neighbouring the capital Hanoi was killed by the H5N1 strain a week ago, the communist government said, and four more people are known to have been infected with the virus since last month.

The country's first bird flu death since October 2005 comes as avian influenza has made a strong resurgence across Vietnam, hitting poultry flocks in over 100 outbreaks across 18 of the country's 64 provinces and municipalities. "This is not going to go away," said WHO's Vietnam communications officer Dida Connor, speaking before news of the human death.

"There is a sense of complacency which is potentially catastrophic if it was to increase." The human fatality, which brought the country's bird flu death toll to 43, followed several avian influenza cases across Southeast Asia last week. On Thursday, Indonesia said a 29-year-old man had died of bird flu, bringing the death toll in the country worst hit by the virus to 80.

In Malaysia five people were quarantined with suspected bird flu, while Myanmar reported a fresh poultry outbreak. Vietnam's unusual summertime outbreak, concentrated in the densely populated northern Red River delta region, follows the ending in March of a two-year ban on duck hatching that has triggered a surge in production.

Nationwide vaccination campaigns -- widely hailed as a model that other countries have sought to emulate -- have become increasingly spotty, Vietnamese and international animal health officials have warned. "We've had bird flu for four years," said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Vietnam bird flu specialist Jeffrey Gilbert. "Everyone's tired of it... but it's going on, and we are increasingly challenged to get these messages across to people that the
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