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Fifth bird flu fatality confirmed by officials

A five year-old  from Prey Veng province’s Pea Reang district has died of respiratory complications resulting from bird flu, according to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation released yesterday.

According to the statement, the girl fell sick on April 11 and died on Saturday after contracting human avian influenza A(H5N1), in what is the fifth recorded case of bird flu in the Kingdom this year.

All five cases have been fatal and four of the cases were in children, the statement said.

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health, said yesterday that none of the other villagers appeared to be infected.

“So far 47 people in the village have been tested but none of them are positive,” he said, adding that ministry officials would continue to observe the village for the next two weeks.

Dr Philippe Buchy, chief of virology at Phnom Penh’s Pasteur Institute, said yesterday that there were cases of bird flu every year between January and May.

“It’s always at the same period from around Chinese New Year until the end of the Khmer New Year ... because at that time there is a huge trade of poultry,” said Buchy.

Buchy believes that a higher number of recorded cases this year compared with last year could be the result of improved surveillance.

“It’s very hard to detect H5NI because in the early stages of disease it looks just like a normal flu,” said Buchy.

“We have more cases [this year] maybe because every year we have a better surveillance situation and citizens are more aware.”

Minister of Health, Mam Bunheng, said in the statement that children appeared to be the most vulnerable.

“I urge parents and guardians to keep children away from sick or dead poultry,” he said.

“If they develop signs of respiratory infection, they should be brought to medical attention at the nearest health facilities.”

There have been fifteen recorded cases of bird flu in Cambodia since 2005, with thirteen deaths resulting from complications related to the disease.

Representatives from the WHO could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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