A five-year-old girl from Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district has died of respiratory complications after contracting the avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, commonly known as bird flu, according to a joint statement from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.
According to her family, Moun Kimhouy of Prek Liep village fell sick on January 29 and died last Thursday, in what is the first recorded case of bird flu in Cambodia this year.
The joint statement, dated February 7 and obtained by The Post today, said that Moun Kimhouy was the 11th recorded case of bird flu in Cambodia since 2003 and the ninth death resulting from the virus.
Philippe Buchy, head of the virology unit at Phnom Penh’s Pasteur Institute, today confirmed the case of bird flu, adding that the institute was conducting further tests.
“We are always concerned if the viruses have a higher capacity to mutate or to become [drug] resistant, so we are testing this virus,” he said.
Prek Liep commune councillor Chhneang Phanary said today that Moun Kimhouy fell sick and died after eating meat from a chicken that had died and been cooked.
“There were more than 200 dead chickens and more than 700 sick chickens in group 8 in Prek Liep village, and at the girl’s house there were about 20 dead chickens,” she said.
“Her family took several to cook for food.”
Moun Kimhouy’s father, Mol Moun, said today that he did not think his daughter died of bird flu.
“I will be careful with this case with my family members,” he said.
Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the WHO, said the organisation had been trying to increase public awareness about bird flu.
“It is very difficult to change behaviour,” he said.
“The population as a whole knows about the virus, they just don’t act on it. Translating that awareness into action is where we need to do more work.”
Prek Liep commune chief Chhey Sameth said Ministry of Health officials and the local health centre had educated villagers about bird flu.
“The Health Ministry came to our village to distribute the medicines, spray medicine to kill the virus in the village and stick posters on trees and houses in the village about what is H5N1.”
Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng could not be reached for comment, but said in the joint statement that avian influenza was still a threat to peoples’ health.