The fight against HPAI in Cambodia continues
01 March 2011 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from 2005 until 25 February 2011, a total of thirteen human cases of H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1 HPAI) have been confirmed in Cambodia. Of these, eleven have resulted in death.
An earlier study notes that the first H5N1 HPAI outbreak in poultry was reported in late January 2004. This outbreak affected a chicken layer unit with 7,500 birds in the vicinity of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Since then, outbreaks in poultry have continued to occur mostly in provinces bordering Viet Nam. In fact, it is in these provinces that 25 of 27 poultry outbreaks and 11 of 13 confirmed human cases have occurred.
The connection between disease outbreaks in animals and onset of illness in humans is explained by direct contact of the victims with infected animals. More specifically, handling sick birds during food preparation or while tending care are the most often cited practices believed to facilitate interspecies transmission. Also, children playing with infected chickens and ducks have been reported as a likely source of infection.
In Southeast Asia the presence of agro-livestock farming systems involving the combination of paddy rice production, domestic waterfowl and poultry in the river deltas is ubiquitous. These conditions contribute to the maintenance of pockets of infection given that H5N1 HPAI thrives in the presence of water, hot temperatures, bird feces, ducks and chickens.
Meanwhile, national and international health agencies have come to realize that mass or targeted vaccinations of poultry against H5N1 HPAI is one of the many measures in a disease control portfolio that need to be implemented in tandem with others, such as biosecurity enhancements, live mixed-bird market cleanups, public awareness raising, and public-private partnerships.
As Southeast Asian countries continue their fight against this pernicious zoonotic disease, it has become clear to animal health officials and policymakers that control or mitigation of H5N1 HPAI can only be successfully attained with appropriate and sustained availability of resources (e.g. human, physical, economic) and strong political support at the highest echelons of power.
The success stories that have emerged from many countries around the world point out that combining and coordinating existing and functional mechanisms at national, regional and international levels for control and surveillance emerging disease threats of animal origin may have exceedingly positive outcomes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representation in Cambodia hosts an office of the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD). For its part, ECTAD has been deeply involved in technical and non-technical activities in the fight against H5N1 HPAI over the last five years. Some of these include aid coordination and distribution, capacity-building exercises, surveillance, liaising with local authorities, and elaboration of reports, among others.
FAO of the UN is an institutional partner of World Veterinary Year (Vet2011).