After the deadly H5N1 virus killed more people in Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday kicked off a public education campaign in the country to fight against the virus.
Warning the bird flu virus "has been spreading," Hun Sen urged the nation's radio stations and TV to provide free airtime for broadcasting more information about the bird flu to let more people understand the danger of the virus and learn from how to avoid catching it.
At the inauguration of a medical school, the premier demanded educational spots be inserted in television or radio between major programs and prime-time shows. "We must not underestimate the danger posed by the virus," he stressed.
The premier blamed the last Tuesday's death of a three-year-old girl on lack of public information and education of the virus.
The three-year-old girl from a village in Kampong Speu province, about 60 km southwest of the capital, died of playing with the sick and dead chickens on March 21, according to the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization.
"The parents took dead chickens and cooked them for their children to eat. This was due to the lack of information on bird flu," Hun Sen said.
He instructed Information Minister Khieu Kanharith to ask the broadcast media help to educate the public, specifying that broadcasters should devote prime-time spots during pop music shows to bird flu information, in an effort to effectively prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The WHO also expressed "great concern" Sunday over Cambodia's latest bird flu outbreak.
Tests confirmed on Thursday the H5N1 bird flu virus in dead ducks found near Cambodia's border with Vietnam two weeks ago.
"This makes us worried that the virus will spread to other areas because of our poor health system and bad communication," Deputy Agriculture Minister Yim Vanthoeun was quoted by Reuters as saying on Thursday.
The premier stressed "all the government sectors, especially the ministries of health and agriculture must be mobilized for the campaign." He also called more doctors and medical workers to go to the countryside to help the poor and villagers.
The Health Ministry has sent trained volunteers to some provinces to educate people about the disease, according to Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Health Ministry's anti-infectious disease department.
Cambodia does not export chicken or have a large chicken industry. Most poultry in Cambodia is raised on small farms or in backyard, making it difficult to prevent the spread of the virus.
The royal government has banned imports of birds and avian products from neighboring countries since early 2004. And authorities have also confiscated and destroyed thousands of birds smuggled in from Vietnam, next to Kampot province.
Cambodia has five people died of bird flu in past two years.
According to the World Health Organization, the H5N1 bird flu virus has killed more than 100 people in the worldwide since late 2003, mostly in Asia, and several countries in Asia are regularly reporting more suspected cases in people and outbreak in poultry.