February 22, 2013
“We’re all working in emergency phase,” said Lotfi Allal, team
leader of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Center
for Transboundary Animal Disease in Phnom Penh.
Dr. Allal said the main task is to prevent the spread of the disease
in poultry—an uphill battle given the underreporting of the disease by
Rural people are hesitant to notify the authorities about their sick
ducks and chickens because when their poultry are culled, they receive
no compensation for their loss.
“We acknowledged long ago there are big weaknesses in this field,”
Dr. Allal said, referring to the reliance by authorities on local
farmers to voluntarily report possible H5N1 outbreaks.
So far, no poultry cull has been ordered in Angkor Chey commune where the latest victim lived, an official said.
“We did not find bird flu in the location where the children died so
we did not incinerate any poultry,” said Khoy Khun Huor, Kampot
provincial governor, speculating that diseased chickens may have been
brought into the commune from other locations, which may have infected
Pa Mon, Angkor Chey commune chief, said commune authorities were
disseminating information about bird flu and preventing residents from
transporting poultry in and out of the commune.
“Dealing with backyard poultry is much more difficult than commercial
farms—which is easier to contain,” Dr. Allal explained. “The farmers
are not reporting and unfortunately children play with chickens, which
is why they’re the ones mainly infected.”
Sok Touch, head of the communicable disease department at the Ministry of Health, declined to comment.