From: Ker Munthit, Associated Press Writer
Published September 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Pond Suspected Link in Chain of Bird Flu Infection in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The latest outbreak of bird flu in Cambodia may have originated from pond water containing the droppings of infected wild birds, a senior agriculture official said this week.

The tentative finding reinforces scientists' theories that wild ducks may play a major role in the spread of the disease, which wreaked havoc in Asia's poultry industry earlier this year and has taken 28 human lives in Thailand and Vietnam.

Tens of millions of birds had to be culled to slow the epidemic of the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease. But it re-emerged in July in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Indonesia, showed up for the first time in Malaysia last month, and was discovered anew in Cambodia this week.

Kao Phal, director of Cambodia's Animal Health Department, said preliminary investigation traced the disease to a pond near the farm where the infected birds were discovered.

He said the pond was the lair of wild birds, which scientists believe help spread the disease.

The problem is especially acute with ducks because they can carry the disease without succumbing to it, increasing the opportunities for it to spread, experts say.

"It can be speculated that the virus was reintroduced from the pond where wild ducks have passed by and left their droppings," said Dr. Hans Wagner, senior animal production and health officer for the Bangkok office of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

He said in one outbreak in Australia, it had been confirmed that the disease was transmitted in a similar fashion, when a farmer used water from a pond for the birds.

Kao Phal said his office had reached an initial conclusion that the farm's owner "had used the water without killing the virus first."

The farm, located about five kilometers (three miles) outside Phnom Penh, was closed after about 2,300 chickens died of bird flu. The remaining 2,200 birds were destroyed.

Tuy Saroeun, a local health official, said villagers living in a three-kilometer radius (1.8 miles) from the farm have been told to immediately report to health care center if they have unusually high temperatures or cough.

Associated Press

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