Dead Ducks in Cambodia Raise New Fears

Nov. 24, 2005: A worker carries chickens for sale at the market in Phnom Penh. Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

PHNOM PENH—The sudden death of hundreds of ducks near the Cambodian capital has raised new fears that the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus may have reappeared in the country, sources here say.

According to the English-language Cambodia Daily , officials say up to 3,000 ducks have died over a period of days, but initial testing for bird flu proved negative. Tests are continuing, and no human bird flu infections have been identified.

The newspaper also reported that Vietnamese farmers seeking to circumvent stricter controls aimed at containing bird flu had smuggled the sick ducks into Cambodia.

The ducks had diarrhea, [they were] excreting white waste, and would shake their heads and twist their necks, and then they died.

Local sources told RFA’s Khmer service that hundreds of ducks had died over three days in Srok Samrong Tong, Kg Speu, about 16 kms southwest of Phnom Penh.

Duck owner Suon So Nim, 42, said 500 of her 1,500 ducks had died in recent days along with many ducks belonging to her neighbors. Fearing bird flu, she alerted the provincial health department, she said.

Officials watching closely

Officials were seen spraying chemicals to disinfect the area and burning dead ducks as she spoke.

“The ducks had diarrhea, [they were] excreting white waste, and would shake their heads and twist their necks, and then they died,” she said.

Officials confirmed that half of the roughly 2,000 ducks in that area had died suddenly over several days. Vichet Mony, head of the provincial veterinary department, said he was sending samples to Phnom Penh for testing to determine the exact cause of the deaths.

Veterinary officials were monitoring the situation closely in hopes of preventing any further spread of the avian illness, he said, speculating that some form of cholera might be to blame.

Four people from Cambodia's Kampot province died as a result of bird flu last year.

The Cambodian Health Ministry recently launched a campaign to educate the public about bird flu and train border agents in how to keep the deadly virus from entering the country.

In Turkey, the number of confirmed cases of human bird flu has risen to 14, and scores more have sought treatment for symptoms of the disease.

The appearance of the virus in Turkey has fueled fears of an eventual mutation that would allow the virus to jump from humans to other humans—triggering a worldwide pandemic.

The H5N1 strain of the virus has so far killed more than 70 people since it was first reported in Asia in 2003.


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