Neak Kob, 58, has raised poultry at his house in Rovieng commune, Samrong district, Takeo province, for nearly three years. He now raises 25 chickens and 13 ducks. Displaying boots, gloves and masks recently, Neak Kob said he and his family understand well bird flu, and he described taking many measures against the disease.
“We must separate the ill birds and not keep those [to be with healthy birds],” he said. “They could spread their illness to the others.”
Takeo villagers have never suffered an outbreak of bird flu, a disease caused by the H5N1 virus, which is carried by birds and has killed seven people in other provinces of Cambodia.
Many in Samrong district said they understand bird flu, having watched educational spots on how to prevent the disease on local television; sometimes they were trained by veterinarians in the villages.
“Bird flu is more dangerous than AIDS because it could kill us within days,” said one of villagers in Rovieng commune, Prak Vannak, 23.
Thai Ly, head of animal health and production for the Ministry of Agriculture in Takeo, noted that villagers in Samrong district have more understanding about how to raise birds and prevent bird flu than villagers in other districts of the province because they have raised more birds than other district villagers.
“Our officials always advised them to be cautious, by wearing masks, and advised them not to touch and eat ill and dead birds and so on,” he said.
However, some farmers in Takeo say they continue touching and eating ill ducks, despite the warnings.
Meanwhile, animal health officials in Takeo are warning farmers not to allow their ducks to mingle with the ducks of Vietnamese farmers aimed at avoiding bird flu.
Every year, Cambodian farmers finish their harvest of dry season rice in February, while Vietnamese farmers finish in March. After the harvest, farmers of both countries take their ducks to eat rice grains and small fish in the paddies.
Bird flu has killed 254 people worldwide, 52 of them in Vietnam.