Cambodia’s outbreak of H5N1 continues with a 7th case announced overnight by the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) of the World Health Organization, who unfortunately has died.
First the joint statement from the WHO and Cambodia’s Ministry of Health.
Joint news release of the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Cambodia and World Health Organization
PHNOM PENH, 13 February 2013 - The Ministry of Health (MoH) of the Kingdom of Cambodia wishes to advise members of the public that one more new human case of avian influenza has been confirmed positive for the H5N1 virus.
The seventh case, a 3-year-old girl from Trapeang Kamphleanh village, Ang Phnom Toch commune, Angkor Chey district in Kampot province, was found positive for influenza H5N1 on 11th February 2013 by Institut Pasteur du Cambodge. She developed fever and a red rash on 3rd February 2013 and was initially treated by local private practitioners. Her condition worsened and she was admitted to Kantha Bopha Hospital on 6th February 2013 with fever, abdominal pain and somnolence and died on 13 February 2013. There is evidence of recent deaths among poultry in the village and the girl had history of coming into contact with poultry prior to becoming sick.
The girl is the seventh person this year and twenty-eighth person to become infected with H5N1 virus, and the twenty-fifth person to die from complications of the disease in Cambodia. Of the twenty-eight confirmed cases, 19 were children under 14, and nineteen of the twenty-eight were female.
Somewhat confusingly, an early media report from Xinhua News overnight identified this case as a 4 year-old from Kampot Province, and gave her condition as stable.
In today’s announcement, Cambodia’s Minister of Health made this statement.
"Avian influenza H5N1 remains a serious threat to the health of Cambodians, especially children. This is the seventh case of H5N1 infection in humans this year, and children still seem to be most vulnerable. Children are at high risk because they may play where poultry are found and I urge parents and guardians to keep children away from sick or dead poultry and prevent them from playing with chickens and ducks. Parents and guardians must also make sure children wash their hands with soap and water after any contact with poultry. If they have fast or difficult breathing, they should seek medical attention at the nearest health facility and attending physicians must be made aware of any exposure to sick or dead poultry”, said HE Dr. Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health.
So far at least, the H5N1 bird flu virus remains primarily an avian-adapted virus. It only rarely infects humans, and human-to-human transmission – while it is believed to have occurred – remains a rare event.
Still, the concern remains that given enough opportunities, this virus might better adapt to human physiology and become more efficient in transmitting between people.