Vietnam has confirmed its first human death from bird flu in nine months.

To Duc Sinh, director of Preventive Medicine Center in southern Binh Phuoc province, said Tuesday that a 52-year-old man died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu on Jan. 18 on the way to a hospital in southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

Sinh said the man developed a fever and other symptoms on Jan. 11 after he slaughtered a duck bought in the village where chickens died of unknown reasons several days later.

Vietnam Bird Flu

The H5N1 virus remains hard for people to catch, with most people sickened after being in close contact with infected poultry. (Na Son Nguyen/Associated Press)

Health workers have disinfected the village, he said.

Vietnam's last human bird flu death was reported in April last year. In 2013, the country had two cases including one death, according to the World Health Organization. Between 2003 and 2009, 112 cases including 57 deaths were reported in Vietnam.

Bird flu remains hard for people to catch, with most people sickened after being in close contact with infected poultry, but experts have long feared it could spark a pandemic if it mutates into a form that spreads easily among people.

 
In Manila, agriculture officials said Tuesday that the Philippines would continue a yearslong ban on the importation of bird and poultry meat from China after Chinese authorities reported the latest outbreak of bird flu in their country.
 
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in a statement that China's Animal Disease Control Center reported last month an outbreak in three villages in northern Heibei province.
 
The ban includes Chinese poultry used to prepare the popular Peking Duck dish, according to Simeon Amurao of the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry.

On Monday, the World Health Organization said another 23 people in China have been infected with the another strain of bird flu, H7N9, in recent days.

"Given the population movement prior to Chinese New Year and potentially unpredictable behaviour of influenza viruses, continued vigilance and close monitoring are needed," the WHO's China office said in a statement on its website.

Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Jan. 31.

The H7N9 bird flu virus emerged in March last year and has so far infected at least 199 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, killing 52 of them, said WHO's spokesman Gregory Hartl.

With files from Reuters