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Vietnam Culls 11,000 Birds in Flu Outbreak

Vietnam has reported outbreaks of the bird flu virus in six provinces, prompting authorities to cull thousands birds in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Officials in Vietnam say drastic measures need to be taken to prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus that has killed more than 30 people in Asia this year.

Officials in Vietnam are warning the bird flu could spread widely during the country's Lunar New Year holiday unless provincial authorities strengthen surveillance for outbreaks. Before the holiday, which is in February, hundreds of thousands of chickens, ducks, and geese will be transported to markets and butchered, making it easier for the virus to spread.

Government veterinarians say the necessary measures include tighter control on poultry transportation and slaughterhouses and disinfecting poultry farms.

In China, officials say they are gearing up to fight a possible bird flu outbreak this winter. Scientists and health workers across China are being trained to spot the disease in birds and humans.

World Health Organization spokesman for the Western Pacific Region Peter Cordingley says although some countries are trying to stop the spread of the disease, poorer nations are not equipped to handle a new outbreak.

"When we tell these countries you have to be ready because we believe that the pandemic is coming, they look at their national health services, public health situations, they have got big problems on their hands already, " said Mr. Cordingley.

The WHO spokesman says there still is a window of opportunity to stop the disease if affected countries take the necessary measures.

"All countries that have had this virus and all those who feel that they may have it just have to raise their game," he added.

The World Health Organization, along with other health experts, has been warning the H5N1 virus may change into a form more easily transmitted to humans, leading to a pandemic capable of killing millions of people.

But so far, the H5N1 strain of the virus has not been easily transmitted to humans. Most people infected since the virus first came to light in the 1990's caught it from sick birds.