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Concern over eighth bird flu death this year

Health officials yesterday called for increased vigilance following the latest death from bird flu, the eighth so far this year and the 17th since the H5N1 virus was first detected in a person in Cambodia in 2005. Every case this year has been fatal.

The latest victim, a six-year-old girl from a village in Kampong Cham province, had died on August 14, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

She developed symptoms of the disease on August 7 after having been in contact with sick poultry, but was not admitted to hospital until August 12, the ministry said.

“We are concerned about the very high mortality rate. The situation calls for vigilance,” Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation, said yesterday.

He added, however, that health officials’ biggest concern, transmission of the virus from one person to another, had not yet occurred.

Moreover, no mutations in the virus had been detected.

Cases of bird flu during the rainy season were not consistent with patterns from previous years, when the threat of bird flu was restricted to the dry season, Dr Asgari said.

Srou Sroeurn, an animal health expert at Kampong Cham’s Agricultural Department, said a swift response was under way.

Officials had sprayed disinfectant at 105 homes in Taing Thloeung village, in Batheay district’s Mepring commune, where the girl had contracted the disease, he said.

Chickens and ducks had also been tested for the disease, and transport of poultry in the area has been suspended.

More than 1,500 village health volunteers and village livestock volunteers had been alerted to increase their monitoring of dead or sick poultry and report any cases immediately, Srou Sroeurn said.

Dr Sok Touch, director of the communicable disease control department at the Ministry of Health, said 15 people in the village had been tested last week but none were infected.  

Dr Asgari said his officials were working closely with the ministry to find ways to increase public awareness of H5N1.

“People are forgetting about avian influenza,” he said. “People should not be eating dead or sick chickens.”

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