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Bird-flu cases scare villagers

Consumed by fears about the spread of bird flu in Cambodia, dozens of people in Banteay Meanchey province descended on the provincial hospital on Tuesday, worried they had caught the disease, only to find they were suffering from common colds.

The scare apparently took hold after several chickens grew sick and died in the area last month, according to a Malai district villager, Ly Khlei, 38, who said many people were suffering flu-like symptoms, including high fevers and coughing.

Director of Mongkal Borie Cambodian-Japanese Friendship hospital Chan Vuthynavuth said 42 people were tested for H5N1 on Tuesday evening, but none of them had caught the virus, nor were their conditions serious.

Heng Bun Hor, director of the provincial agriculture department, said authorities had sent samples of local poultry to Phnom Penh to test for the virus and the results would be known by Friday.

The Kingdom is facing its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu, with eight deaths out of nine cases in less than two months. None of the cases was in Banteay Meanchey.

Officials deny their treatment of the outbreak has created unnecessary panic.

Banteay Meanchey provincial health department director, Kao Sopheak said the latest incident showed people were being cautious.

The World Organisation’s Sonny Krishnan said it showed that the education and information campaign was getting through.

“This is what we want, people to start reporting death of poultry,” he said.  

After the latest death last week of a 35-year-old Kampong Cham man, authorities beefed up their communications cam-paign, including doubling television and radio advertising from two slots per evening to four.

Krishnan said the campaign would last until at least Khmer New Year in mid-April.

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