Martin W

    HANOI, April 6 (Reuters) –

    Vietnam has found the bird flu virus in chickens smuggled from China, the first case in poultry since December, officials said on Thursday. The state-run Vietnam Economic Times newspaper reported that Animal Health Institute tests confirmed the presence of the H5 virus component in chickens seized in the northern border province of Lang Son, 154 km (96 miles) north of Hanoi. It was not immediately known if the virus was the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed over 100 people in parts of Asia and the Middle East since 2003. Institute officials could not be reached for comment but a provincial official said smuggling was tough to prevent. "The smugglers come in small groups and by various small ways so it’s been difficult to stop all of them," … Hoang Van Nam, deputy head of the Agriculture Ministry-run Animal Health Department, said poultry smuggling from China posed a serious threat to public health. This week Vietnam increased border control measures to prevent a resurgence of bird flu, but officials said the work was not always a success. Vietnamese northerners join the lucrative illegal trade of chickens over the border with China because they can sell the birds in Vietnam at 10 times their buying price. State media said officials seized around 20,000 chickens, 126,000 eggs and 1,000 ducks trafficked into Lang Son and Quang Ninh in March alone. They gave no comparative figures.