We are writing in response to the article "Local chicken farmers pushed to bankruptcy" [July 6, 2009], citing bird flu as one of the reasons for the economic difficulties facing poultry farm owners.
We at the Department of Animal Health and Production (DAHP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) acknowledge the frustration of the poultry farm owners interviewed in the story, but it would be unfair to put the blame solely on avian influenza, or bird flu, alone.
There are other poultry diseases that have been affecting Cambodia's poultry population even before avian influenza arrived. The low incidence of avian influenza - 23 outbreaks in poultry (chicken, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl and wild birds) since 2004 - compared to other diseases did not result in a major threat to the livelihoods of small poultry producers, which make up more than 99 percent of poultry owners in Cambodia.
However, avian influenza's ability to kill people - seven out of eight cases - makes it more dangerous to humans than other poultry diseases.
Avian influenza shares similar clinical signs with Newcastle Disease and fowl cholera, so that DAHP and FAO have been encouraging poultry keepers and farm owners to report sudden, high and spreading mortality in their poultry immediately to the hotline (012 833 795 or 012 214 970) or if they do not have access to telephone, to their village animal health workers, village chiefs, district or provincial veterinary officer. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether the cause of mortality in their poultry is due to avian influenza or other diseases. Reporting is essential to avian influenza containment.
FAO has been supporting DAHP in investigating other potential sources of avian influenza such as ducks and wild birds. So far, results of sampling have not found avian influenza to be circulating in the 12 duck markets in 11 provinces surveyed since 2007. Samples collected by the Wildlife Conservation Society from wild birds in the wetlands and in the markets also yielded negative results.
Dr Kao Phal
Dr Lotfi Allal
Chief Technical Adviser, FAO
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