Saturday, December 09, 2017

Media Reports Of H5N1 Outbreak In Cambodia


Although largely overshadowed the past couple of years by the globe-trotting dual threat from HPAI H5N8 and H5N6, along with China's ominous array of evolving LPAI and HPAI H7N9 viruses,  venerable H5N1 - the OG of the bird flu world - has been around for two decades, has killed more than 450 people, and remains endemic in several parts of the world.
Today, the sharp-eyed newshounds on FluTrackers (h/t Commonground) have picked up media reports of a fresh H5N1 outbreak in east-central Cambodia (see Cambodia: Bird Flu Returns in Poultry (Media Report)).
The last report out of Cambodia came in January of this year (see OIE Notification), and while bird flu activity has been slow there the past few years, Cambodia has the 4th highest total of H5N1 human infections and deaths (56/37) globally - with the bulk of those cases recorded between 2012 and 2014.
Reporting, testing, and surveillance are limited in this part of the world, and so these numbers are likely under counts. 
First a sample of today's reportage, then I'll be back with a postscript.
December 9, 2017
Bird flu outbreak in Kampong Cham

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:
Ducks hang at a farm on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Thousands of ducks were culled in November 2015 after many became sick from a mysterious illness. Reuters

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has reported that in early December the bird flu (H5N1 virus) appeared in Kampong Cham province. The ministry informed Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday, of the outbreak.

Prey Chor district’s Trapaeng Preah commune was hardest hit, with some 200 chickens perishing.

After the alert from local authorities, the ministry immediately dispatched experts to inspect the site in Trapaeng Preah, and they took away two dead chickens to be sent to a laboratory in Phnom Penh.
“The tests on Wednesday [Dec. 6] confirmed that those chickens had contracted the avian influenza H5N1,” the lab report said.
(Continue . . .)

This is a seemingly small, probably inconsequential report of a local event in a very remote part of the world - and as such is not the sort of thing most people would even notice.  Like so many other reports we see like this, it will probably fade from memory in a matter of days.
But every so often, a seemingly insignificant news item signals the start of a much bigger event. Often we only realize the significance of these items in retrospect. 
While I try to blog those infectious disease stories I think are important, I can only cover a small percentage of the daily wealth of information that comes over the transom.  For every blog I write, there are probably 10 or 20 potentially newsworthy stories I take a pass on.
Luckily, I'm not alone in this endeavor.
Crof blogs on a variety of infectious disease and societal issues every day while CIDRAP News provides both terrific long form articles and news briefs 5 days each week.

The bulk of the flu news gathering, however, is being done quietly by a group of volunteer newshounds at FluTrackers, who gather and collate infectious disease information - both important and obscure - from every corner of the globe.
Their members are an eclectic group - ranging from knowledgeable lay people to research  professionals - who reside in the United States, Europe, Australia/NZ, and Asia. They speak and write in multiple languages, work in different time zones, and many of them have been doing this unsung work for more than a decade. 
While I hope my blog provides context, and details on the `big' stories of the day - if you want to see the big picture - you really need to be a regular visitor to FluTrackers. Everything you read might not seem important at the time, but in retrospect, those puzzle pieces can often prove to be important tipping points. 
Hopefully, if you are not a regular visitor, I've piqued your interest enough that  you'll make the FT repository a daily stop. Just click the Latest Activity button.
As I've stated before, I couldn't do what I do with this blog if it were not for the efforts of Sharon Sanders and her team at FT.  They not only provide me with leads for many of my daily blogs, they free me up to do the more in-depth style of writing I enjoy.

I strongly suspect, whoever ends up writing the history of the next pandemic, will find everything they need to know about how and when it began had been posted the FluTrackers site before the first official alarms were raised.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you Michael! I started reading your articles 2 years ago, and I have checked in daily with AFD and CIDRAP ever since. I typically also scan the news section of google and OIE for additional information concerning the global “SitRep,” and I greatly appreciate the two new sources. I have never commented before (not usually my style), but I was struck by your last comments. I have told my wife the same thing, as I occasionally send her clips or links to those events/articles which I find most relevant (an educated gamble, out of the great abundance of daily global events that I am able to find and read about).
We try to be prepared, and I do my best to spread the word that we all need to be aware and prepare for what history should teach us will happen again (winter is coming, so to speak). I have discovered just how difficult those conversations can be, but then I think about the fact that the Spanish Flu is so often left out of discussions concerning the first half of the 20th century (or, at least, how such coverage/focus has been so vastly out of proportion with the magnitude of the event). When I consider that, I wonder if the world would have responded differently if there had been people trying to raise awareness of the need to prepare for such an event (and recording the history as it unfolded).
That is why I respect what you are doing with your blog (as well as Dr O’ and the CIDRAP team), and I try to do my part when and where I can. Although the number one priority is obviously to be prepared for the next time, I hope that even in failure... this generation will at least succeed in making sure that we remember and learn from it. This is what I tell my two boys, as well, and I want to thank you (and CIDRAP) for having the courage and resiliency to speak out for the sake of their future.