More than 60 Kompong Speu province villagers have fallen ill and one might have died after eating beef from a diseased cow, officials said Thursday.
Ly Vanntha, Odong district police chief, said that Ny Tren, 38, noticed his cow was ailing about a week ago, and after it died Monday, Ny Tren sold its meat at a “cheap price.”
He said that 169 villagers in Veal Pong and Trach Tong communes ate the beef after which 14 of them became seriously ill. He claimed that Phoeun Phal, 28, died at 11:30 pm on Monday after eating the meat.
Hou Narin, chief of Damnak Smach Health Center in Veal Pong commune, said he gave medicine to 67 people experiencing “stomach aches, difficulty breathing and vomiting.”
He added that he referred the 14 with more serious symptoms to the district health center.
Ma Ros, Veal Pong commune chief, said that meat from the 100-kg cow was sold for $2.50 per kg, which is about half the market price. “Villagers are poor, so they bought the beef,” he said.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Health Ministry’s communicable disease control department, claimed that Monday’s death was not linked to the sick cow.
“That man did not die because of eating the beef. He may have had another disease,” he said, adding that samples from the diseased cow and the sick villagers have been sent to laboratories in Phnom Penh.
“We do not know the result of the test yet,” he added.
Isabel Bergeri, a World Health Organization epidemiologist, said that 66 people fell ill, but their symptoms were very mild. She also said she believes the young man died for unrelated reasons.
Bergeri added that when villagers opened up the cow they found signs of internal bleeding, which could be the result of myriad illnesses.
The WHO is working to inform villagers of the dangers of eating meat from a cow that has already died, she said.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)