Chicken was on the menu for these Phnom Penh government officials, journalists and other invited guests during a public relations exercise to restore consumer confidence in chicken.
Officials are awaiting the results from tests which may confirm Cambodia's first
human death from avian flu.
Dr Sean Tobin, a medical epidemiologist at the World Health Organization said a 25-year-old
woman from Takeo who died, fits the case definition. The woman kept about 20 hens,
and had reported them dying off in recent weeks. But the results could also be inconclusive.
Eighteen of the 23 people confirmed to have contracted avian influenza in Southeast
Asia have died.
Dr Tobin said that if this was the total number infected, it represented an alarmingly
high mortality rate, "almost as high as the ebola virus". He thought it
likely more people were suffering milder symptoms of the virus.
On February 11, the WHO and Ministry of Health issued a joint statement about food
safety during the influenza outbreak. The release said there was no danger from falling
sick from food if it was hygienically prepared and did not come from sick birds.
Most restaurants have stopped serving chicken.
Meanwhile, the Tamao Zoo in Takeo province closed its avian section on February 5
on advice from the government.
From December 2003 till mid-January, 50 birds of more than 20 varieties have died
at the zoo including the rare Krial, found mostly in Battambang. The zoo has killed
a further 400 hatchlings. Manager at the zoo Pin Livon, said the cold weather conditions
at the time meant many animals fell sick.
The zoo currently sees only 10 or 20 visitors per day. "This is because it is
hot, and because many heard the entire zoo was closed," said Livon. He was unsure
when the closed sections would be reopened.
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