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Vietnam Says Bird Flu Contained; Philippines Steps Up Vigilance

Vietnam's agriculture minister Cao Duc Phat says the most recent bird flu outbreak in his country has been contained, but warns the risk of reocurrence is high.

Vietnam has had no human cases of bird flu since late 2005, but the virus re-emerged on poultry farms in the Mekong Delta in December.

Phat also warns that another outbreak is possible during the upcoming Lunar New Year festival when demand for poultry increases.

In the Philippines, which has been free of bird flu, the government has announced the opening of a New Zealand-funded laboratory to help detect the virus.

Officials there are also downplaying fears that a migratory egret that died last week was infected. No tests were performed on the bird which was found in central Sorsogon province.

The Philippine government has increased surveillance at airports and seaports to stop the smuggling of wild birds and poultry.

With 42 deaths, Vietnam is second only to Indonesia in the number of human bird flu fatalities.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 150 people worldwide since 2003, most of them in Asia. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form easily passed between people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.