Hundreds of Poultry Culled in Svay Rieng After Bird Flu Outbreak

Hundreds of chickens and ducks infected with H5N1 bird flu have been culled in Svay Reing province after an outbreak of the virus last week, the first reported cases since November 2015.

Flocks of birds belonging to three farming families in Svay Chrum district’s Bassac commune have been destroyed by officials as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus, said Thach Rotana, director of the provincial agriculture department.

cam photo MERS reuters
Officials from the Health Ministry’s communicable disease control department operate a thermal scanner at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2016 (Reuters)

Prompted by the sudden deaths of 68 birds, local authorities alerted Mr. Rotana’s office to a suspected outbreak on January 24.

“We brought three ducks to the Health Ministry for examination and found that it was a case of H5N1,” he said on Wednesday, adding that officials suspected wildlife from a nearby pond had infected the birds.

“We had to destroy more than 300 birds. Now we are observing to make sure it doesn’t spread to other villages or farms,” he said.

Villagers understood the need for the culling, but had asked for compensation, which the department could not provide, he added.

“We don’t have the budget,” Mr. Rotana said.

Provincial health department director Keo Rotha said villagers had been instructed to keep birds confined until they received confirmation that the virus had not spread further.

Ly Sovann, a Health Ministry spokesman, said officers had found no human cases so far.

“We are continuing to monitor human health,” he said. “If our staff detect any suspected cases, they need to collect a sample.”

Mr. Sovann said officials had also warned community members not to eat locally farmed poultry.

Cases of human infection with bird flu, which causes a highly infectious respiratory disease in birds, are not common. Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been traced to close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments, according to the World Health Organization.

In 2015, an outbreak in the provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang led to the deaths of more than 2,000 ducks, less than a year after two children also died from the virus.

(Additional reporting by Sonia Kohlbacher)

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