Gov’t Releases Flu Report, Critics Unimpressed

Amid criticism from health and agriculture experts that Cambodia did not do enough to combat avian influenza, a government database revealed that about 120 tests for the disease were conducted during the outbreak.

During that period—from January through May—government officials repeatedly said they were scouring the country for the disease that ravaged poultry stocks throughout Asia. The disease was reported in 12 locations in Cambodia.

Asked whether the 120 tests were sufficient to assess the spread of the disease, Suon Sothoeun, deputy director of the Department of Animal Health and Production said, “I decide to have no comment on that.”

Suon Sothoeun managed the department’s response to the bird flu outbreak until June.

Cambodia’s Food and Agricul­ture Organization representative Jean Claude Levasseur questioned Cambodia’s reporting system in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.

“[T]he national disease reporting system probably did not allow to detect any single outbreak in the country,” Levasseur wrote. He did not elaborate and did not return requests for further comment on Wednesday.

This year, Cambodia received nearly $1.2 million to fight the disease, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s April Bird Flu Task force report. The report did not give full details about how that money was spent.

Some of the funds would support veterinary services, Levasseur wrote.

New bird flu outbreaks have been reported in Vietnam, Thai­land, Indonesia and China, but no new cases have been confirmed in Cambodia. Officials warned that the disease may still be carried by wild birds that migrate to Cambodia.

World Health Organization officials questioned the accuracy of the government’s reporting of the disease in March, but WHO officials declined to comment Wednes­­day.

On Friday, the Ministry of Agriculture lifted quarantines on the last nine farms that reported bird flu cases earlier this year. Officials have said they will need at least six months without a recurrence of the disease to declare the country free of bird flu.


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