The Ministry of Agriculture is setting up special checkpoints for poultry transported on the main roads into Phnom Penh in order to prevent any birds infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus from reaching the capital, officials said yesterday, adding the measure was taken because of the increased transport of poultry ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year.
Kao Phal, director of the ministry’s department of animal health production, said agriculture officials and officers from the Economic Police were deployed along National Road 1 yesterday and would be stationed on all main roads into the capital to check the influx of poultry in the days leading up to the Chinese New Year, which takes place this weekend.
“We check the birds before we allow them to be transported to the markets, we do not test for bird flu, we just check the birds’ sanitation and health,” he said, adding the measure was part of a nationwide campaign to prevent the potential spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
“We called all the 24 provincial agriculture departments to the ministry recently to appeal to them to educate the villagers in each province” about the virus, Mr Phal said.
Dr Lotfi Allal, chief technical advisor at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that in recent years the government had been taking specific measures during major holidays to check poultry for H5N1.
“The high risk periods are around these festivals. There is a lot of trade in animals, such as poultry, around this time. Always around this period we support the government with their public awareness campaigns,” he said.
Dr Allal also said FAO and government officials were wrapping their activities to control the recent H5N1 outbreak in Romenh commune, Takeo province, as bird culling in a 1-km radius around the outbreak’s epicenter had ceased, while investigations in a 5-km range were also completed.
“The culling is finished… Now we’re targeting villages in 5 to 10 kilometer radius,” he said, adding officials were interviewing farmers and taking samples from poultry is this outlying area.
Thai Ly, chief officer of domesticated animals for the Takeo provincial agriculture department, said the culling of chickens and ducks ended on Tuesday in Pralay Meas village, where the outbreak occurred. He added about 1,600 animals had been killed since Feb 3.