Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation officials confirmed today the deaths of a young mother and her 11-month-old son were the result of the A(H5N1) influenza virus, commonly known as bird flu.
A joint statement said that Prak Sophorn, 19, and her 11-month-old son were infected while handling poultry during a visit to relatives in Prey Veng province’s Rokar Chor village.
“The mother was admitted to a private clinic in Banteay Meanchey province but died as a result of complications of infection on 12 February,” the statement said, adding that her son died while being treated at a hospital in Siem Reap province on February 17.
The deaths bring to 11 the total number of people killed by bird flu in Cambodia since 2003, following the death earlier this month of a 5-year-old girl in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.
A rapid response team was dispatched to Rokar Chor village today to interview people who might have had close contact with the deceased at the time of infection, the statement said.
Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the WHO, said samples were taken from several people who might have been exposed to the virus, and that the team will continue to follow up for the next two weeks to cover the possible incubation period.
No one with bird flu-like symptoms has been reported in medical facilities in Prey Veng province since the deceased fell ill, Asgari said.
Villagers told the response team they had recently seen officials take samples from chickens in Prey Veng but that no connection to the two deaths had been confirmed.
Yos Mony, director of Prey Veng province’s department of agriculture, said samples are routinely taken in the province for avian influenza testing and that he was unaware of the details of the recent deaths.
There has not been an unusually large number of chicken deaths in the province of late, he added.
Seven people who prepared the body of Prak Sophorn for cremation were admitted to hospital last week in Banteay Meanchey but have been determined not to be at risk of bird flu infection and are not being tested for the virus, according to the Ministry of Health.
A common factor in the three bird flu deaths this year has been the handling of dead or sick poultry, Asgari said.
“If people find dead or sick chickens, they should not have any contact and should immediately call the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture or local authorities,” he said.