United Nations health officials say Asia's deadly bird-flu virus may have crossed over from poultry to pigs -- a development that could make the virus much more of a threat to humans.
Officials of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said today (Friday) they have detected avian influenza virus in pigs in (the Vietnamese capital) Hanoi and the surrounding region.
Anton Rychener, the FAO representative in Hanoi, says the H5N1 virus was found when pigs were tested with nasal swabs.
U.N. workers said their findings are a source of concern, but Vietnamese officials say they are unaware of any evidence that the virus has crossed into pigs.
Health officials in Hanoi disclosed today that two more people have died as a result of bird flu, raising the human death toll from the disease to 13 people in Vietnam. The latest victims, a six-year-old girl and a 24-year-old man, died at hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City.
In addition to the fatalities in Vietnam, five people infected with bird-flu virus have died in Thailand. The disease has spread through nine Asian countries. Since it primarily spreads through infected birds, tens of millions of chickens and ducks have been slaughtered, devastating the Asian poultry industry and millions of small farmers who depend on it for their livelihood.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.