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140 in Kandal Negative for Bird Flu: Officials

Health officials have tested at least 140 people for the avian influenza, following the discovery of the disease in one man late last year, but all of them have tested negative, officials said.

Authorities had feared they were exposed to the virus by eating or handling contaminated poultry in Doeum Russ commune, Kandal Stung district, Kandal province, where Cambodia’s only 2008 case of bird flu appeared in December.

Leng Khan, chief Doeum Russ health center, told VOA Khmer recently that blood tests for the H5N1 virus, known as bird flu, was a protective measure for the health of the commune’s residents.

“And it shows awareness of people over the spread of bird flu,” he said. “Although the tests are negative, they help people understand how to prevent transmission of the virus.”

Dy Soeum, a veterinarian in the commune, said he was glad the blood tests had developed into a strong campaign to fight the virus for villagers.

Villagers had been very concerned about the disease following an initial diagnosis in one man from Doeum Russ, Teng Sopheak, 19, who was hospitalized in December after eating contaminated poultry in November.

“They all volunteered to see the doctor to have their blood tested in the commune,” Dy Soeum said. “They said that if they were positive, the doctor would be able to treat them in time.”

Pok Nhem, a 40-year-old neighbor of Teng Sopheak, who had helped clean and cook the chickens Teng Sopheak ate, said he was relieved to be found negative for the virus.

“Before, I was not afraid of bird flu, but right now I am very afraid,” he said. “It is dangerous.”

He did not eat any of the potentially contaminated chicken, but he was still worried he might have contracted the disease.

“After I cleaned the chicken, I washed my hands and body,” he said. “But I was still wondering if I could transmit the virus or not, so I came here to protect my health.”

Khem Saem, a 55-year-old farmer, was tested with three members of her family, because she had taken Teng Sopheak to the hospital when he fell ill and subsequently visited him there.

“I just now know about the spread of bird flu,” she said.

The doctor gave her son, who had also handled chickens, Tamiflu anti-viral treatment, along with others that were directly involved with the local poultry.