Hanoi - Nearly 5,000 swifts, whose nests are collected for sale as a luxury health food, have died in southern Vietnam after contracting the H5N1 bird flu virus, news report said Friday.
The birds, half the population of a facility in Phan Rang Thap Cham City, died between March 28 and April 11, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
The city has many so-called bird houses, where the swifts are encouraged to build their nests, which are then collected for sale. The nests, made largely of the birds' saliva, are a sought-after ingredient for soup and other delicacies.
Many bird house owners expressed concern about contagion.
"My experiences show if swifts contract H5N1, it would be very difficult to control because most of the birds fly all over the place and only come back to the house in the evening," owner Nguyen VanKhoi was quoted as saying.
"All our investments will go up in the air if the disease takes hold on a large scale." Vietnam on Tuesday confirmed a 4-year-old boy died of the bird flu strain H5N1 in the Mekong Delta, the country's first fatality from the virus this year.//DPA