- (Reuters) -- The deadly H5N1 bird flu
virus has returned to Cambodia, found in dead ducks near the border with
Vietnam, a senior official government said on Friday [24 Feb 2006].
- "The dead ducks were found near
a lake where wild birds live and test results showed it is the H5N1 bird
flu virus," Yim Vanthon, the number 2 at the Agriculture Ministry,
- The virus has killed 4 people in Cambodia
since it first arrived in late 2003 and its reappearance was the first
in months in a region experts believed could generate a mutated virus which
might trigger a global human pandemic.
- There had been no reports of new human
infections since 3 ducks were found dead 2 weeks ago in the Kampong Seim
district of the eastern province of Kampong Cham, about 50 miles (80 km)
east of Phnom Penh, Yim Vanthon said.
- The flock of more than 200 ducks had
been culled and the government had banned the movement of 10 000 ducks
being raised near the 12 square km (4.6 square mile) lake, home to water
fowl believed capable of spreading the virus without falling ill.
- The government of impoverished Cambodia
was trying to persuade other duck raisers in the area to kill their birds
but could not afford to pay them to do it, Yim Vanthon said. "Farmers
are complaining about culling their poultry without compensation. This
is another problem for us," he said.
- The reappearance was a jolt towards the
end of the cool season, a time in which the H5N1 virus seems to thrive
best in this region, which had passed without incident even as the virus
spread rapidly to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and now India.
- Vietnam, the worst-hit country where
the virus has killed 42 people, has had no outbreaks since November 2005.
Thailand, where 14 people have died of bird flu, has gone 107 days without
a reported fresh case.
- Both countries have enlisted armies of
volunteers to spread the word about bird flu throughout countrysides where
backyard chickens are the norm and to act as an early detection system.
- Vietnam inoculated its vast poultry flock
before the cool season began, worried that a virus which has killed 92
of the 170 people known to have been infected might flare up again.
- But the experts worry especially about
Cambodia, still recovering from 3 decades of civil war and the Khmer Rouge,
under whose radical back-to-the-land rule an estimated 1.7 million people
were killed, or died of starvation and disease. Its veterinary service
is rudimentary and its people poor, many of them dependent on poultry for
- The main fear of the experts is that
the virus will mutate into a form which can move easily between people,
which now it cannot. Almost all of the known human cases have been people
in close contact with infected fowl.