2 Chickens in Dead Man’s Village Carrying Flu

Two chickens from Kampot prov­­ince’s Keatha Vong Leu village in Ban­teay Meas district have tested positive for avian influenza, Khim Voenthan, Ministry of Agri­cul­­ture secretary of state, said Thursday.

The two chickens were among six tested for bird flu. Over the last 20 days, 629 chickens in the village have died, Khim Voenthan said.

Keo Saran, who tested positive for H5 on Wednes­day after dying in Phnom Penh’s Cal­mette Hospi­tal on Tuesday, hailed from Kam­pot’s  Tram Sasor village.

The government is focusing its disinfection efforts on Keatha Vong Leu because the victim had relatives there and had visited last week, Khim Voenthan said.

Khim Voenthan warned villagers not to conceal chicken deaths from local vets, which he said was slowing government reaction times to outbreaks.

“We keep our eyes on everything, but in this case, the people, because of poverty…hid the information about the death of chickens so they can keep chickens and cook them,” he said.

“We don’t accuse anyone. We are encouraging education,” he ad­ded.

The World Health Organiza­tion’s avian influenza coordinator, Dr Megge Miller, said a Health Min­­istry task force is conducting a thorough investigation of all those who came in contact with Keo Sa­ran—Cambodia’s suspected second victim of bird flu.

Cambodia’s first bird flu fatality, Tit Sakhan, lived only 20 km away from Keatha Vong Leu before dying in Vietnam in January.

Asked why nearby villagers, subjected to government education campaigns in the months since, would still dare to eat sick chickens, Miller said that education efforts are a slow process.

“Chickens have been dying for so long and people have been eating them for so long that even if we get the message out once or twice that is not going to change their behavior…. In any country or any context, behavior change takes a long time,” she said.

The fact that a local doctor re­ferred Keo Saran to Phnom Penh after examining him was a hopeful sign, Miller said.

“There are very good quality health professionals in the system, and once they are made aware of the dangers, the risks of people dying will go down substantially,” she said.

A recently cleared $40,000 grant from the WHO to educate Cam­bo­di­ans about the dangers of bird flu is being put into action.



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