Vietnam represents an important country for the potential of emergence and spillover of infectious zoonotic pathogens from wildlife to humans. Vietnam is widely recognized as a significant source, transit, and consumer country of both the legal and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. While Vietnam’s biodiversity has been significantly threatened by a history of deforestation and illegal hunting, poaching of all species of wildlife continues. Regional wildlife trade dynamics have also highlighted the country’s important position along the major land, sea, and air transport routes for wildlife en route to the wildlife markets of China. The crowded, often unhygienic nature of the wildlife trade creates ideal conditions for the transmission of infectious pathogens between stressed, often injured, and potentially immunologically naïve animals.
Consumption of wildlife within Vietnam - both consumption of wild meat in specialized restaurants and the use of wildlife products as remedies in traditional medicine - is also increasing. Practices associated with slaughter and preparation meat for consumption provide opportunity for exposure of people and other animals to potential pathogens. Legal farming of a wide range of wild species, in an attempt to provide a sustainable source of animals to supply the wildlife trade, is also developing rapidly. Surveys of wildlife farms in Vietnam by the Wildlife Conservation Society identified these as significant risks to public health due to the number of species in close contact. Farming of livestock also remains very important across the country. Continued clearing of forest for human settlement and encroachment of displaced wildlife into areas of human settlement creates increasing opportunities for contact between people, livestock and wildlife and the potential for pathogen transmission.
Significant advances have been made recently in the development of surveillance networks for diseases in livestock as a result of the response to avian influenza infection within the country. Thus, existing networks provide an ideal platform from which to develop a national surveillance system for wildlife diseases in Vietnam.