Bird flu has not gone away, and despite a lull in deaths the virus remains a dangerous threat, the UN Secretary-General’s Avian Influenza Coordinator Dr David Nabarro warned during a one-day visit to Cambodia on Thursday.
Six Cambodians were confirmed to have died from bird flu between February 2005 and April 2006, but no cases have been reported since then.
“Perhaps [bird flu] is less in the news because it has become quite familiar to those who make the news,” Nabarro said.
“Avian influenza remains a major concern…in some countries it is a greater threat than ever before,” he said at a news conference.
Nabarro’s visit coincided with the distribution of 7,200 bird flu education kits to the nation’s 6,970 primary schools.
The kits contain educational booklets and card games, alongside soap and scrub brushes for students to keep clean.
To date, the UN Children’s Fund has spent about $1.6 million on bird flu education campaigns in Cambodia, including television spots, to teach children and parents not to play with sick chickens and to wash their hands after handling poultry.
Billboards began going up in 24 provinces last month.
UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Gardner said Cambodia is doing a very good job in surveillance of sick chickens and in testing samples from those suspected of having bird flu.
Asked about reports that Cambodian villagers have been hiding sick chickens and ducks from the authorities to avoid having them culled, Nabarro said the Cambodian government is still considering whether to compensate farmers for lost chickens and ducks, something it does not currently do.