Sixty-eight-year-old farmer Nov Bay stands as far from a pigpen as possible as he pours food into troughs for his 25 swine. He is, he says, aware of the H1N1 virus and wants to prevent an outbreak.
“Having heard about the outspread of swine flu, I try to feed the pigs from far away because of the fear the virus would infect me,” he says.
Nov Bay is one of many pig farmers in Dey Eth-Kosh Posh village of Kandal province, about 30 kilometers from Phnom Penh, who say they are taking similar measures to prevent illness from the virus.
Sometimes called “swine flu,” the H1N1 virus emerged in cases around the world in recent weeks, raising concerns of a global pandemic.
Mexico, thought to be the epicenter of the disease, closed down all but the most essential functions last week, while nearly 300 guests and staff were quarantined at a hotel in Hong Kong.
No cases have been reported in Cambodia, but, thanks to experience with SARS and bird flu, the population is acutely aware of the dangers of spreading epidemics.
Rushing into a light rain beneath a thundering sky, Meas Thon pulls a blue covering over his 350 pigs, fearing they could become infected by H1N1. He has begun spraying an anti-viral drug on his pigs four times a week, he says, four times more than normal.
“Now I have to be more careful,” he says. “I am so worried, as I have only one job. Without pigs, everything is over.”
The nature and severity of the virus remain a mystery, as world health experts continue to track and test the disease. Officials say there is no reason to believe eating pork will lead to infection, and Cambodia has not restricted the import of pork.
Michael O’Leary, the World Health Organization’s Cambodia representative, said that although the virus is passed human to human, pig farmers should take care of their animals for general health concerns.
“It’s a time for alert, concern, cooperation,” he said, urging no-nonsense measures to disease prevention, “such as hand washing and covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.”