Saturday, February 10, 2007

Vietnam's success against avian flu may offer blueprint for others

Vietnam has succeeded in pretty much holding back Avian Flu, especially in comparison to Indonesia, where the disease is regarded as endemic (established) in its poultry.

After responding to its 2004 outbreaks mainly by culling infected flocks, Vietnam in 2005:

  1. became the first country to institute mandatory nationwide poultry vaccination.
  2. banned poultry rearing and live-market sales in urban areas;
  3. restricted commercial raising of ducks and quail, which can harbor the virus asymptomatically;
  4. imposed strict controls on poultry transport within Vietnam
  5. clamped down on illegal cross-border trade
  6. launched an aggressive public education campaign that deployed radio and TV advertising, neighborhood loudspeaker announcements, and outreach by powerful internal groups such as the Women's Union and Farmers' Union.
Nice work, no? No, not according to Dr. David Dennis, the Hanoi-based Vietnam influenza coordinator for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who whines "How much [of the reduction in cases] is due to the natural history of this organism in birds? We don’t know."

Oh dear oh dear. How backward and unscientific these Vietnamese are. How inconvenient of them to fail to do things one at a time, half heartedly, and ineffectively, all in the name of "science".

Ballcocks! Dr Dennis - and, sadly the WHO, who also have refused to learn from the Vietnam success - has his priorities all wrong. This is medicine we are doing here, which is the technology associated with medical science. Science can tag along and learn from the success, but all credit to the Vietnamese who have succeeded where Indonesia and other countries have so signally failed.

If people want to be scientific, let them repeat the Vietnam experiment in Indonesia (or, assuming that that country refused to play ball, some other more cooperative country), and leave out just one element - like the public education, or the market ban, and see if that works. Or, better still, let us forget the knowledge and go for the cure, and just do what worked in Vietnam, and let the anal retentive scientists go hang about by their empty viral specimen jars.

Of course, this aversion to learning from the Vietnamese could have nothing to do with what happened in April 1975. American defeat, ignominious exit, helicopters, Saigon.

Could it?

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