Of the South-East Asian countries hit by outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu virus, Vietnam has perhaps had the hardest time of it. It has had the most human cases and deaths, and estimates suggest that H5N1 cost the country US$190 million in 2004 alone.
With the threat that the bird flu virus could mutate, leading to a global influenza pandemic, the problem is not confined to Vietnam or even South-East Asia. Yet Vietnam, say critics, has appeared unwilling to cooperate.
In this article, Dennis Normile reports how international health experts and scientists in the West perceive Vietnamese researchers' response to the potential pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly complained that authorities have delayed reporting new cases and have held back important data. And Vietnamese research institutes looking for collaborations have been choosy, leaving some foreign virologists begging for samples and information.
Yet many Western collaborators have praised the country for doing so much with so little. Vietnamese researchers were the first to confirm the disease in humans, for instance.
What seems clear, says Normile, is the need for support. Vietnam is itself increasing funding to combat H5N1. And just last week, representatives from the WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health called for donations to help Vietnam improve poultry farming practices and build its capacity for tackling infectious diseases.
Link to full article in Science