Deaths of 5,000 Ducks Raise Bird Flu Worries

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.


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