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Cambodia Opens New Bird Flu Project

Cambodia launched an $11 million preventative influenza project Tuesday, in an effort to curb the spread of bird flu and protect poultry farmers from financial loss in the event of an outbreak.

The project will help fund rapid responses and diagnoses of outbreaks and raise awareness of the disease, through the ministries of Agriculture and Health and the National Management of Disaster Committee, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the announcement of the project Tuesday.

“I urge all Cambodian authorities to have close cooperation with neighboring countries, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand,” he said, “and exchange information with each other on the outbreak of bird flu, to prevent the spread of bird flu across the border.”

He called on international organizations, including the UN and development partners, “to continue to contribute resources of spirit, equipment, funds, knowledge, experience and technology to reduce the dangers of bird flu.”

The project purpose is to “reduce and limit the damage to poultry production and the loss of human life” from avian and human influenza, said Alan Piazza, leader of a working group for the project, led by the World Bank.

Bird flu, which is caused by the H5N1 virus, has killed 254 people worldwide since its first outbreaks, in 2003. Seven have died in Cambodia, which also saw a small outbreak in November 2008.

Stephane Guimbert, Cambodia’s World Bank acting country manager, said Tuesday that despite efforts by the government to educate more people about the disease, Cambodia remains at risk.

“As long as H5N1 virus circulates, there is a risk of emergence of a strain of the virus capable of transmitting easily between people, leading to a human influenza pandemic,” he said. “Cambodia and all other countries must be prepared for such an event.O