UN Bird Flu Chief Says Virus Still a Threat

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.


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