Cold weather in Vietnam causing increase in avian flu cases

A prolonged period of cold weather in Vietnam is contributing to a rise in the number of reported avian flu cases.

Health officials warned that the outbreaks, which have killed two people in the last month, would continue with the wintery conditions, according to

"The weather this winter is much colder and longer than other winters which has led to outbreaks of the virus," Hoang Van Nam, the director of Vietnam's animal health department, said, reports.

At least four provinces have reported reoccurrences of H5N1 avian flu since the beginning of the year. In response, 4,000 birds, of which 1,700 were confirmed to be infected, have been culled.

The animal health department recently issued a warning against buying poultry of an unknown origin and urged anyone handling birds to wash their hands thoroughly afterward, according to

Regardless, the department said that the virus will continue to spread, fueled by the cold conditions and exacerbated further by the Tet Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on January 30. Health officials said that a large number of birds were transported throughout the country without undergoing proper controls in preparation for festivities.

In 2011, the virus was believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 150,000 domestic fowl - half as many as died in 2010. There have been 121 cases of H5N1 infection and 61 flu-related deaths in Vietnam since the virus first appeared in 2003.