A team of Ministry of Health avian influenza inspectors is investigating the deaths of more than 5,000 ducks that mysteriously perished over the course of three days last week in Battambang province.
Ly Sovann, chief of the Ministry of Health’s Disease Surveillance Bureau, which is looking into the deaths, said it is bureau protocol to investigate all poultry deaths and that it was not yet known if the ducks, penned inside a farm in Thmar Koul district, died of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain.
Provincial officials said that poultry farmer Morm Ngov, of Chrey Thmei village in Chrey commune, had brought about 1,000 ducks from an area of Prey Veng province near the Vietnam border and penned them with another 4,000 ducks that he had owned for a long time.
After three days, all but 100 of the farmer’s ducks died, according to Kong Lim, chief of Chrey commune.
Ou Bunchhat, police chief of Chrey commune, maintained that Morm Ngov, whose farm was devastated by the loss of the ducks, sold a small number of the carcasses as well as some sick living ducks for heavily discounted prices.
“I told people in my commune not to buy ducks right now because they were sick,” he said.
Health officials said the mass deaths of the ducks were a concern because epidemiologists say that the heat and humidity of the season creates an ideal condition for the H5N1 influenza virus to breed.
Since 2003, poultry numbering in the millions have died of bird flu or have been slaughtered in Southeast Asia to prevent the spread of the virus. More than 60 people have died in the region, four of them Cambodians, after coming into contact with the bodily fluids, feces, or raw meat of infected birds.
Ly Sovann said that Cambodia has not confirmed any new cases of the deadly disease in humans, poultry or wildfowl in the country since April, but that it is crucial to remain vigilant to any possible outbreak in poultry flocks.
He said that laboratory test results confirming what killed the ducks should be completed late today.