Specialists from the Ministry of Health have collected samples from the area where a child contracted the influenza A/H9 “bird flu” for further testing while advising individuals to avoid all non-essential contact with poultry.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said influenza A/H9 was a bird-born virus that was easily transmitted from the animals to humans.

“Now there is no more H5N1, there is another influenza – A/H9. The disease is very similar to the H5N1 bird flu that we know. It is a strain of the bird flu, just under a different name. It is just like the Covid-19 virus in that it originated in an animal and then mutated through generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to become a new bird flu,” she said.

Vandine said that in the case of bird flu found in a child recently, the research team of the Siem Reap provincial health department immediately went to investigate the incident there, but did not find that it was part of a general outbreak in the region yet and was confined to just one child.

She said experts had collected samples from the area where the child lived and were awaiting results from the laboratory.

She added that the important thing was to prevent it from spreading and the symptoms of the new bird flu were similar to those of H5N1 bird flu and to Covid-19 and included fever, cough, sore throat and especially shortness of breath – all things common to respiratory ailments.

“So, if you have children, do not be careless. Do not touch chickens or ducks and those who do business with birds must be hygienic. It means that if we make chicken but cannot afford gloves, once you finish with the chicken you must immediately wash your hands with soap and water. In the meanwhile, we have to do it quickly and avoid touching the nose and face with the hands we were using to pull the chicken feathers and duck feathers.

“But for ordinary people who do not have any duties like that – do not go to places such as farms where there are a lot of chickens and ducks. Do not let children visit there either because they like to chase chickens when they see them,” she said.

Tea Kim Soth, director of the Siem Reap provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post on March 14 that after the discovery of the bird flu case in the child, his department took action to ensure animal safety by spraying disinfectant at six neighbouring households to prevent further infection.

“There were a lot of sick and dead chickens there and we took precautionary measures in the area and then we took the chickens’ specimen from where the child got sick to the veterinarian and found that it was influenza. We then took the samples to check at the laboratory in Phnom Penh and it was confirmed as transmitted from chickens,” he said.

However, he said that officials were continuing to monitor cases carefully and if there was another outbreak of the disease, they will take immediate action. The infected child has been cured in the meantime.

He said the influenza was transmitted from chickens raised on a family farm to the child, not large-scale factory farm-raised chickens.