New bird flu strain appears in Vietnam

A new bird flu strain has unexpectedly developed in Vietnam, spreading widely through seven central and northern provinces of the nation in August, according to the National Animal Health Diagnosis Center.

Even more troubling is that the new strain is thought to have a higher risk of deaths in humans than previous strains. The strain, which may belong to H5N1 - Clade, is different from two strains of A and B that appeared in the country in 2011. The strain has a higher pathogenic risk, Xinhua reports.

The strain appeared in July, which is atypical for avian influenza. Bird flu usually appears in and around late January and early February. The epidemic may become even more complicated when it reaches a peak in the upcoming months.

Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development instructed its Animal Health Department to strictly supervise the import of poultry, particularly chicks that are breeding and may make the strain spread faster. MARD also ordered the veterinary sector to determine the preventive possibility of the current vaccine against the new strain.

A major concern is that as the virus spreads among poultry it will continue to change until it is able to circulate among animals and humans. There have been four A/H5N1 human infections as of September 6 and two deaths, but there are no reported cases of the new strain infecting a human, Xinhua reports.