Backtracking from earlier reports that avian influenza may be quickly eradicated in the country, health and agriculture officials said Tuesday Cambodia is not clear of the disease that has ravaged poultry stocks throughout Asia.
Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot said Cambodia may have to go one to three months without an outbreak before officials declare the outbreaks are finished.
“Cambodia is not free from bird flu yet, so people must be careful when they eat chicken,” said Hong Sun Huot at a news conference Tuesday morning.
According to media reports on Monday, the confirmed death of a 12-year-old Vietnamese boy from bird flu has restoked fears there.
Last month, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture said they were confident Cambodia was close to being rid of the disease and Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth called for an “all clear” signal to calm tourists’ fears.
Tuesday’s conference was delayed 90 minutes as officials said they met to discuss progress in fighting the disease. Since early January, officials have reported that some 8,106 birds have died of bird flu and 6,125 have been culled in 10 confirmed outbreaks in Phnom Penh and the provinces. But experts have questioned the government’s reporting and investigation of outbreaks.
“In the beginning, the Ministry of Agriculture was certainly lacking of some areas of action to record all of the outbreaks of avian influenza,” Jean Claude Levasseur, UN Food and Agriculture Organization country representative, said Tuesday.
He said the ministry has improved communication with organizations involved in fighting bird flu. The last five outbreaks, however, were not released to the media until last week, at least five days after the cases were confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Government officials provided little explanation for the delay on Tuesday. Ministry of Agriculture Under Secretary of State Meas Kimsuwaro said only that cases take time to confirm because of equipment limitations.
Three task forces will visit each province to survey homes and farms for bird flu, he said.