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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hanoi Requests UN Help on Bird Flu

HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam has appealed to the United Nations to help it fight a raging bird flu outbreak that has killed 12 people in the communist country over the past five weeks, officials said Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat sent a letter Wednesday to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization asking that experts be sent to help Vietnamese specialists map out a plan of action to control the disease's spread, said a ministry official, Nguyen Quoc Dat.

He said the minister also asked the two UN agencies to help coordinate foreign assistance sent to Vietnam for the best use of resources.

"Last year, we asked the international community to help fight the bird flu and received their effective assistance," he said. "We hope to get the same thing this year."

A bird flu outbreak in 2004 spread to 10 Asian countries, forcing the slaughter of more than 100 million birds and jumping to humans in Vietnam, Thailand and -- most recently -- Cambodia. Forty-five people have died in the past year, most of them in Vietnam, where the virus has re-emerged in recent weeks.

The WHO's biggest concern is that the virus may mutate into a form easily spread from person to person, potentially sparking a global pandemic. Most cases so far have been traced to sick poultry, and there is no evidence that the disease has altered.

Hans Troedsson, the WHO representative in Vietnam, said the UN agencies would help conduct studies and surveys to gain a clearer picture of how widespread the virus is among the nation's poultry stocks.

Troedsson said of Vietnam's plea for help: "It shows the government is aware of the ... seriousness of the situation, and is committed to seriously address this ... with the assistance of the international community."