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A man lies in a bed next to medical equipment earlier this year at the Khmer Soviet Hospital after contracting H1N1. Photo supplied
A man lies in a bed next to medical equipment earlier this year at the Khmer Soviet Hospital after contracting H1N1. Photo supplied

ASEAN centre to tackle animal-borne illnesses

Cambodia joined other Southeast Asian countries earlier this week in a commitment to establish a new ASEAN centre to tackle diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, for which exposure is common in the Kingdom’s rural areas.

The animal health centre is estimated to run at an annual cost of about $350,000, which will be divided among the 10 participating countries, including Cambodia, said Kachen Wongsathapornchai, an official with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Thailand.

“It is good to have an animal health centre with proper [disease] prevention for animals,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann, who is also the director of the Communicable Diseases Department.

“It could eliminate zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza … [and] rabies that could be transmitted to humans.”

Cambodia saw its first fatality from H1N1, or swine flu, earlier this year, though it has seen large outbreaks in the past. Avian flu is also prevalent in poultry in Cambodia, though the last human avian flu case was reported in 2014. The kingdom has reported 42 avian influenza outbreaks among poultry, but only 56 human cases since 2004.

The ASEAN centre is expected to be operational by late 2017, Wongsathapornchai said. The centre will be hosted on a rotating basis, first by Malaysia from 2017 to 2020, followed by Thailand for the next four years, after which other ASEAN countries will be eligible to host.

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