Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bird flu cases may go unreported

Bird flu cases may go unreported

bird.jpg
bird.jpg

When Hun Sokha's chickens began dying, first by dozens, then by hundreds, he knew

what to do.

A Ministry of Agriculture vet sprays post-slaughter virus disinfectant at a Veal Sbov chicken farm, 8km southeast of Phnom Penh on National Route 1, near the home of Prince Norodom Ranariddh. On September 21 MAFF vets slaughtered 4500 chickens on this farm in an attempt to prevent the avian influenza virus from spreading.

Sokha took some birds to a laboratory to be tested for H5N1, the avian flu virus.

Results came back positive in late September and inspectors from the Ministry of

Agriculture examined the poultry on Sokha's farm, located in the Kien Svay district

of Kandal province.

The end result: Sokha lost the 4,500 birds on his Veal Sbov commune farm - some to

sickness, and others to culling.

"I invested $10,000 in the farm," Sokha said. "I spent a lot of time

and money for all those chickens, but it was all destroyed very quickly."

Sokha's actions helped control Cambodia's latest outbreak of bird flu, the first

since late June. But not everyone would be so willing to report sick or dying birds.

"From the farmers' point of view, they're not getting compensation," said

Donna Mak, a short-term consultant with the World Health Organization in Cambodia.

"And people with smaller numbers of chickens may depend on them for protein."

This urge to keep quiet - along with the challenges associated with monitoring Cambodia's

countryside - could mean that cases of bird flu go unreported. While the virus has

killed 31 people in Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia has had no reported cases of transmission

to humans.

"To begin with, it's not that easy to transmit from birds to humans," Mak

said. "But it's possible some people got the disease, weren't all that sick

and got better."

Geography makes a difference. The most recent outbreak, quickly discovered and contained,

was in an easily observable area just outside of Phnom Penh.

"In very remote cases, surveillance is not of the same standard as in western

countries," Mak said. "When people get sick it's often hours to walk to

health centers; they might not be able to get diagnosed."

Jim Tulloch, a representative from WHO, stressed the importance of reporting, encouraging

people to notify the Ministry of Health with information about sick humans and the

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries about cases involving sick animals.

But barriers to reporting are varied. Some Cambodians are not sure when they need

to notify officials.

Kav Srey Ath, who lives in Sokha's district, bought four chickens from a nearby market

shortly after the most recent outbreak of bird flu was discovered. When two started

acting strangely, she killed them and buried their bodies because she was worried

they may have the virus. Then a couple days later, the others also seemed sick, so

she killed them as well.

She didn't tell authorities.

"I didn't tell the government because I'm too busy," she said. "There

weren't very many chickens, so I didn't think it was a big deal."

Ath added that she thought the chickens might have become sick because they ate too

much rice at the market, but she wasn't sure.

According to Mak, people should report small-scale cases of illness as well as large-scale

ones.

"Even if they just have five chickens, they should look out for it," she

said. "The virus can spread to humans when you kill and pluck the chickens."

Health officials are particularly concerned about monitoring after the first potential

recorded case of human to human transmission occurred in Thailand last week. Although

the virus does not spread easily from birds to humans, if someone already suffering

from human influenza contracted bird flu as well, the viruses could combine, forming

a lethal and easily transmitted mutant, Mak said.

Such recombination could also occur in other animals, like pigs, that more easily

spread diseases to humans than do birds.

For now, the most recent threat of bird flu in Cambodia seems under control, officials

said. But Mak urged citizens to continue monitoring poultry and humans who work with

birds.

"Given that bird flu is endemic throughout Southeast Asia, we'll probably be

seeing more of it," she said. "It's in Thailand, it's in Vietnam, and Cambodia's

right in the middle."

(Additional translation by Jun Soktia)

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".