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Joint WHO and Ministry of Health message on influenza A(H7N9)

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avian fluHanoi, 13 April 2013 – Influenza A(H7N9) is one of a subgroup of influenza viruses that normally circulate among birds. Until recently, this virus had not been reported in people. However, human infections have now been detected in China.

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), and other international agencies in Viet Nam has directed the health system to gear up surveillance and response measures that will limit transmission and minimize the impact of the influenza A(H7N9) virus on human health.

As of 11 April 2013, WHO has been officially notified by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China of a total of 38 cases of influenza A(H7N9) infection in humans, including 10 deaths. All cases come from four provinces (Shanghai, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) in eastern China.

To date there have been no recorded cases of influenza A(H7N9) in Viet Nam.

Patients infected with A(H7N9) have had severe pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, information is still limited about the full spectrum of disease that infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus might cause.

At this time, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. More than 700 close contacts of the confirmed cases are being closely monitored for possible secondary transmission. Thus far, none of them has tested positive for H7N9 virus.

Investigations continue in order to identify the source of infection, reservoir and mode of transmission of the influenza A(H7N9) virus.

Viet Nam’s Ministry of Health has issued directives to all levels of the health system across the country to enhance influenza surveillance and ensure early detection of influenza outbreaks.
Hospitals and health care workers have been instructed to strengthen infection prevention and control measures and to report, and closely monitor, patients with severe respiratory infections. Medical facilities have been urged to prepare medications and equipment, and quarantine areas in preparation for treating potential cases of influenza A( H7N9).
“We’ve learned from past outbreaks that timely sharing of information, multi-sectoral collaboration and strengthening our capacity for surveillance, diagnosis, response, treatment and communication to the public are the most critical measures to limit transmission of the influenza A(H7N9) virus and protect people from possible infection,” said Minister of Health, Dr Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.
The Ministry of Health has requested the two National Influenza Centres, one at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, and the other at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City to be on standby to receive samples and prepare all necessary laboratory equipment to diagnose influenza A(H7N9).
Both WHO and the Ministry of Health have called on the public to follow precautionary measures which include frequent hand washing with soap and water, eating well cooked poultry products of known origin and avoiding contact with dead or sick poultry. People who develop respiratory problems, fever, and shortness of breath, should seek immediate medical attention.

“We continue to support Viet Nam’s Ministry of Health in addressing the potential threat of the A(H7N9) virus,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Representative in Viet Nam. “As we still do not know from where the disease originated or how it is transmitted, WHO stands committed to support medical facilities, health care workers and the public to be vigilant and prepared for influenza A(H7N9).”

WHO Viet Nam have been providing support to obtain laboratory diagnostics for influenza A(H7N9) and continue to share available information with Viet Nam’s government and international agencies, including regular communication with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  

The Ministry of Health will further strengthen its preventive efforts against influenza A(H7N9) by setting up a joint task force with WHO and an emergency operations centre to regularly monitor the current evolving situation.



For more information, please contact:
General Department of Preventive Medicine - MOH
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WHO in Viet Nam
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