The death of birds recently discovered in Tuolporn Taley Boeung Sne protected area in Prey Veng province’s Ba Phnom district was a result of bird flu caused by influenza A virus subtype H5N1 (A/H5N1), officials confirmed.

Authorities have taken measures to stop the spread of infections but stopped short of ordering an evacuation of residents.

In a letter addressed to Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and seen by The Post on March 28, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said specialists from the General Department of Animal Health and Production had tested the carcasses of five Asian Openbills from the district’s Theay commune and determined that the cause of death was bird flu A/H5N1.

Sakhon called on relevant authorities to prevent it from spreading to other animals by taking a number of measures including destroying carcasses and bird products suspected of being infected in the outbreak area.

Authorities have been instructed to act on veterinary advice and temporarily suspend the import and export of birds within a 3km radius of the affected area. The area would be monitored and checked by authorities and research would determine the source of the disease in 30 days.

“Relevant authorities also have to monitor the movements of birds within a 10km radius of the outbreak area and report any death of birds to the provincial agriculture department for veterinary measures,” Sakhon said.

The provincial administration has also issued an urgent notice banning residents in the area from handling the dead birds as it could lead to H5N1 spreading from wild birds to domestic ones. It could also endanger human health.

Puth Bo, community chief in the Tuolporn Taley Boeung Sne area, said community members and specialists had collected and destroyed 135 bird carcasses, raising the total to nearly 2,000 since March 17.

“For now, villagers were very fearful after the agriculture ministry announced the results of the tests were H5N1,” he said, adding that all his villagers could face a temporary evacuation from the area for 30 days because the village is close to the area.

However, Ba Phnom district governor Tep Phearun said on March 28 that local authorities had decided not to evacuate villagers from the commune but had temporarily prohibited them from guiding tourists to visit the area. Villagers, he said, have also been advised against grazing animals in the area as the virus could be transmitted to domestic animals, or even to humans.

“No evacuation has happened, but we asked villagers to keep the environment around their homes clean,” he said.