An outbreak of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been found in Battambang province, prompting officials to issue temporary restrictions pending inspections and disposal of infected animals.

On January 12, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries issued a prakas declaring Ta Chreng village in Ek Phnom district’s Prek Norint commune as the site of the infection.

According to the statement, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production would implement measures to cull all kinds of animals in the outbreak area in accordance with pertinent veterinary protocols.

A commercial quarantine has been imposed within a 3km radius of the outbreak area, suspending sales, import and export of all kinds of animals until further notice.

Specialists will conduct a 30-day study of the origins of the outbreak and regularly monitor the movements of birds within a 10km radius of the area.

Provincial agriculture department director Chhim Vachira said on January 12 that deaths of birds had been reported at the Hou Nam family poultry farm since January 5. Specialists had been sent to inspect the site, dispose of dead birds and spray disinfectant on the farm.

Test results of a sample taken at the farm confirmed on January 11 the presence of bird flu pathogens.

Vachira called on people with poultry farms to report to the nearest agriculture department or bureau if they notice sick or dead animals so that specialists can intervene.

Pen Setha, veterinary office director for the agriculture department, inspected 1,300 chickens in the area from January 5-7. He explained that farmers had been instructed to bury dead birds and were prohibited from eating or selling them.

He suspected that the most likely source of the outbreak was from migrating wild birds coming into close proximity with farmed animals, thereby spreading the virus.

“We examined their facilities and determined that the illness could have been transmitted by wild sparrows or doves which had been observed at these locations eating food set out for chickens and ducks,” Setha said.

He added that this is the fourth recorded outbreak of bird flu in Battambang province. Previously, there had been instances detected at a chicken farm, an area for raising ducks on a banana plantation and a poultry farm in Sangke district.

Setha continued that when animals are sick or die from illness, regardless of which disease, people must avoid eating them because there remained a chance that an infection could be transmitted.

“Viruses can be destroyed if we cook meats well, but they can still be infectious in raw and undercooked meats so we strongly encourage people not to eat sick animals or those that died of illness,” he said.

Tan Phanara, animal health directorate director-general, said specialists would also request cooperation to cull more than 170 ducks and 10 geese as preventive measures to stop the spread of bird flu.