The Cambodian government has banned the import of poultry and poultry products from Vietnam and Thailand as avian influenza continues to kill people in the two countries.
According to the Associated Press, doctors said Tuesday that an 18-year-old woman in Vietnam has died of suspected bird flu, in what would be the country’s fourth death from the virus in two weeks.
The virus has killed 23 people in Vietnam and 12 people in Thailand over the past year and if the latest case is confirmed, it would be Vietnam’s 24th death, the AP reported.
While an outbreak of bird flu was found in Kandal province last September, Cambodia has yet to confirm any new cases of the deadly disease inside the country, said Kao Phal, director of the animal health and production department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. No human cases have been reported.
Kao Phal said the ban, which the ministry issued in a directive to agriculture officials on Dec 31, and close monitoring of chicken farms will help ensure the disease doesn’t spread to Cambodia.
The directive also warned agriculture officials to be extra careful when examining livestock and related products.
“Now we are prepared to prevent such disease,” Kao Phal said. “We are very careful about this.”
Kao Phal said the ban will remain in effect until Vietnam and Thailand announce they are free of the disease and the World Organization for Animal Health confirms it.
Earlier this week, Dinh Cong Thuan, head of Vietnam’s Kien Giang province animal health department, was quoted in a Vietnamese paper as saying that chickens were being smuggled into the province from Cambodia.
Chan Rith, deputy director of Kampot’s provincial agriculture department, which borders Kien Giang, denied allegations of such smuggling and said local farmers sell their livestock in local markets.
Medical experts fear bird flu might mutate and create the world’s next influenza pandemic, the AP reported. So far, though, there has been no concrete evidence of human-to-human transmission of the disease.