Poultry smuggling over the border with China poses a severe risk to animals and people.
Vietnam’s health ministry raised the country’s bird flu alert status on Friday amid concerns that the virus could spread to humans.
The heightened alarm status came as the country is faced with an increasingly possible outbreak of the highly pathogenic H7N9 strain of bird flu.
Vietnamese authorities formed inspection and emergency response teams last Tuesday to try and prevent the deadly strain from entering the country. The H7N9 virus has been spreading quickly in neighboring China where the number of human cases has risen to a record high of 460 people so far this year.
The country has not reported any cases of the H7N9 strain but officials are concerned about the busy border trade of undocumented poultry.
Vietnam is already battling H5N1 and H5N6 outbreaks in seven provinces across the country, including the Mekong Delta, and more than 30,000 birds have been destroyed so far this year. A place is only considered free of bird flu after no new infections are reported over a period of 21 days.
No human infections of bird flu have been reported in Vietnam over the past two years.
“With poultry smallholdings, the risk of H7N9 and H5N1 spreading to humans is really high,” said Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long.
Health officials are urging the public to avoid consuming poultry of unknown origin and immediately seek help if they find sick or dead birds.
Vietnam has yet to issue a travel warning to danger zones but health officials advise people to postpone non-essential trips to areas where the virus is circulating.