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Birds culled following death

Ducks are herded on a farm in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in January. Children have been urged to stay away from poultry.

More than 600 chickens in two villages in Banteay Meanchey province have been culled following the death of a girl from bird flu three weeks ago.

The four-year-old died on July 20, only 10 days after showing symptoms of the disease, according to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation released on Friday.

“The girl is the 17th person in Cambodia to become infected with the H5N1 virus and the 15th to die from complications of the disease,” the statement said.

That night, provincial officials reacted to the ministry’s announcement by culling more than 600 chickens in the village where the girl contracted H5N1 and an adjacent village in Rahat Teuk commune, Mongkol Borei district.

“We have to move quickly,” said provincial agriculture department chief Heng Bunhor on Friday.

“We have to burn all the chickens tonight. If we wait until tomorrow their owners might try to sell them to other people. This is dangerous,” he explained.

Officials are also attempting to control a separate outbreak in Takeo province. Phnom Tamao Zoo will maintain its one-kilometre quarantine around an area where an outbreak of bird flu killed about 30 birds last month, its director said yesterday.

“Only zoo staff are allowed in the area, and they must put on face masks and protective clothing first,” Nhek Ratanak Pich said.

Staff began finding dead and sick birds in mid June. The migrating birds had stopped in ponds located within a one-hectare area of the zoo. The  dead birds were buried, others culled and the entire area sprayed with disinfectant, he said.

Several carcasses were sent to the National Veterinary Institute for testing, he added. Besides imposing the quarantine around the area, staff from the zoo and the institute spent two weeks surveying nearby villages for outbreaks, a report from the institute said.

Veterinarian and public health officials have sought to reassure the public that they are responding swiftly to H5N1. The WHO and government statement urged that children be kept away from poultry and that poultry should be kept away from living areas. In rural areas, however, most families raise chickens in their yards and veterinary services are scarce.



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