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Tests confirm bird flu virus in Cambodian ducks

Written by: Staff
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PHNOM PENH, Mar 30 (Reuters) Tests have confirmed the H5N1 bird flu virus in dead ducks found near Cambodia's border with Vietnam two weeks ago, a government minister said today.

More than 100 ducks and 59 chickens were culled within a 3 km (2 mile) radius of the outbreak in the southern province of Kampot, the same province where two people died of H5N1 last year.

''This makes us worried that the virus will spread to other areas because of our poor health system and bad communications,'' Deputy Agriculture Minister Yim Vanthoeun told Reuters.

There was no sign of human infection in the isolated village about 95 km (60 miles) south of Phnom Penh, he said.

Since it first surfaced in Southeast Asia in late 2003, five Cambodians have died of H5N1, which scientists fear could mutate into a highly contagious flu that spreads easily from person to person, triggering a pandemic that could kill millions.

Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off an urgent public information campaign on Tuesday after a 3-year-old girl who came into contact with infected chickens died of the virus last week.

Underscoring the need for better health education in one of Asia's poorest nations, Hun Sen blamed the girl's death in the central province of Kampong Speu on a lack of public understanding about the H5N1 virus and its dangers.

According to WHO figures, 186 people worldwide are known to have been infected with H5N1 since 2003. Of those, 105 have died.

REUTERS CH KP1146

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