A two-year-old boy from Banteay Meanchey province is in critical condition after being diagnosed with avian influenza in the Kingdom’s first confirmed case of the virus this year, according to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation issued on Friday.
The boy, of La Peak village in Preah Netr Preah district’s Chhnuor Meanchey commune, was diagnosed with H5N1 influenza, commonly known as bird flu, on Thursday after falling ill on January 3, the statement read. He was admitted to a Siem Reap hospital on January 9.
According to the statement, the boy is the 19th person in Cambodia to have been diagnosed with the virus, with 12 of the cases manifesting in children under the age of 14.
Eight people died from the virus in Cambodia last year.
Kao Sopheaktra, director of the provincial health department, said yesterday that the diagnosis marked the third case of bird flu in the province.
“[People] have to rush to the health centre or hospital if they suspect that they have bird flu or they have similar symptoms to H5N1,” he said, adding that many chickens had recently died in the commune and residents had eaten them.
Kao Sopheaktra said that officials would continue to monitor the health of the boy’s relatives and other villagers for at least two weeks.
Commune chief Hem Sarith said the boy fell sick two days after eating sick poultry and that poultry in the area were now being tested.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the communicable disease control department at the Health Ministry, could not be reached for comment, but he told the Post last week that the department had appealed to the public and health officials to be on alert for suspected cases.
The statement said that a “public health education campaign” about the virus was under way in the village.
Philippe Buchy, head of the virology unit at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, said that an increase in reported cases last year could be attributed to better awareness of the H5N1 virus, and increased outbreaks in a larger number of provinces. He added that the cause of the outbreaks was unclear.
“Once [the virus] is established in a province then it is very hard to eradicate,” he said. “The more provinces are affected, the more risk for humans to be exposed.”
WHO public health specialist Nima Asgari could not be reached for comment.