Authorities began culling poultry in Takeo province’s Koh Andet district yesterday after samples taken from farms in the area confirmed the presence of H5N1 avian influenza, health and agriculture officials said.
The operation began after samples from six ducks from Romenh commune tested positive for the virus, said Thai Ly, chief officer of domesticated animals for the provincial agriculture department. A second test at Phnom Penh’s Pasteur Institute on Monday confirmed the results, he added.
As of yesterday afternoon, health officials had collected and incinerated 1,060 birds and banned the import and export of all live poultry within the area to prevent the virus from spreading. Culling was expected to continue into the evening and today.
“According to the Ministry of Agriculture, we are banning this area from selling ducks or chickens to other areas for 30 days as we are still observing this virus,” Mr Ly said by telephone from Takeo. “We killed 710 ducks and 350 chickens yesterday in Romenh commune.”
Chief Technical Adviser with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Dr Lotfi Allal said farmers reported last week that some ducks had began dying toward the end of December but that the deaths were not made known to authorities until after the positive cases were discovered.
He said an estimated 12,000 ducks from various flocks have since died but that no definite link has been confirmed between the deaths and the appearance of the H5N1 virus.
“As it is the same area, I think we can make that shortcut,” Dr Allal said. “We can consider this case important.”
According to the website of the World Organization for Animal Health, Cambodia has marked 22 outbreaks of avian flu in poultry from the end of 2003 to Sunday.
Takeo province’s agriculture department vice director Meng Sothy said authorities are carrying out an education campaign to teach villagers how to protect themselves from the illness, advising them to wear face masks and to avoid handling sick or dead animals. He added there are currently no signs that the virus has spread to nearby districts.
“There is no sign that the neighboring areas are affected by this virus yet,” Dr Sothy said.
In December, a 54-year-old man from Kompong Cham province fell ill with the avian influenza virus after handling and cooking a dead chicken in Ponhea Krek district. He made a full recovery after spending eight days in the provincial hospital’s isolation unit.
According to the Ministry of Health, he was the ninth person found to be infected with the virus, seven others of whom died.
Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist with the World Health Organization, said yesterday that no human cases of the virus have been discovered in Takeo province at this time.
As for the H1N1 influenza, or the so-called swine flu virus, Cambodia has recorded 557 cases in 13 provinces up to Friday. There have been six deaths linked to the flu virus, with the country’s last fatality occurring in early December when a roughly 18-month-old child fell ill in Battambang province.