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Experts say bird flu in Cambodia still a threat

Experts say bird flu in Cambodia still a threat

A JOINT United Nations-World Bank report has identified Cambodia as one of nine countries still at risk of “sporadic” outbreaks of bird flu.

Bird flu is “entrenched in domestic poultry in parts of Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam”, the report said, and other countries, including Cambodia continued to be affected sporadically.

The 2010 Global Progress Report on Animal and Pandemic Influenza, launched in Washington on Wednesday, called the international response to bird flu an “intensive and generally successful effort”.

But is said the virus had continued to circulate and urged “continued vigilance and investments” to prepare for future pandemic diseases.

Cambodia has recorded only 10 cases of H5N1 influenza, eight of which were fatal. Vietnam, meanwhile, saw 119 cases and 50 deaths.

“We have a rapid responsive group in susceptible provinces such as Takeo and Prey Veng to examine the disease and treat people,” said Sok Touch, director of the communicable disease control department at the Ministry of Health.

The ministry has also recorded 760 cases of swine flu in the Kingdom, one of which was suffered by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and six fatalities.

Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation, said Cambodia had managed recent pandemics well but warned of the dangers of a larger outbreak.

“There is enough coordination to deal with the current pandemic. But if the pandemic is more severe ... we really have to make sure that coordination is in place.”

Sourn San, director of the Animal Health Research Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the Kingdom had taken widespread steps to protect against cross-border infection from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, identified by the report as a hotspot for bird flu.

He said the ministry banned imports of poultry from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar in 2004.

The ban remains in effect, though illegal imports – about 500,000 eggs and 7 tonnes of poultry annually, according to estimates from the Cambodian Chicken Raisers’ Association – could still pose a threat.

Asgari said the Ministry of Health was reviewing its response strategies, while Sok Touch said the ministry would complete a new five-year plan by the end of the year.

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