A seven-year-old girl from Prey Veng province died on Tuesday of respiratory complications resulting from bird flu, according to a joint statement released by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation last week.
According to the statement, the girl, from Prasat village in Kampong Trabek district’s Prasat commune, fell sick on May 24 before being sent to a hospital in Phnom Penh on May 31. She died at the facility on Tuesday. The girl is the sixteenth recorded person to become infected with human avian influenza virus H5N1, commonly known as bird flu, in Cambodia since 2005.
She is also the fourteenth person in the Kingdom to die of complications resulting from the virus.
Philippe Buchy, head of virology at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that samples had tested positive for bird flu on Wednesday.
“Usually, by the end of April, the virus stops circulating among poultry stock.But this year, for an unknown reason, the virus is still circulating,” he said.
Before the girl fell sick, her family had cooked and eaten two chickens that had become sick and died, Kampong Trabek district governor Chan Rann said yesterday.
“The girl’s mother sold dead chickens to another family and she cooked two sick chickens for food for her family, but they did not know the chickens had H5N1,” Chan Rann said.
According to the joint statement, the Health Ministry plans to train clinicians in “high-risk provinces” to detect bird flu in the early stages of infection.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the communicable diseases department at the Ministry of Health, said yesterday that clinicians must be trained to identify potential cases when patients presented with flu-like symptoms.
“[Clinicians must] be more attentive by asking the history of the [patient’s] contact with sick poultry, or even healthy poultry,” Ly Sovann said.
He added that provincial health officials had so far collected samples from 65 people in the girl’s village, all of whom had tested negative for the virus.
Avian influenza does not easily transmit from human to human, but “if the virus changes, it could easily be spread like seasonal influenza”, the joint statement said.
It was “practically impossible” to predict if bird flu would begin to transmit from human to human, Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the WHO, said yesterday.
“It is a worst-case scenario,” he said.