The bird flu, or H5N1, has taken the life of an 11 year old girl in Cambodia, marking the first known infection from the disease since 2014. The girl from the rural southeastern province of Prey Veng fell ill on February 16 and was sent to a hospital in Phnom Penh.
According to the South China Morning Post, doctors diagnosed the little girl on Wednesday after she had suffered from a fever of 39 degrees Celsius. She was also reportedly coughing and had a sore throat. The Health Ministry says that she died the same night.
Health officials say they went to a conservation area near the girl’s home and took samples of a dead wild bird. The team also warned residents about touching dead and sick birds.
Cambodian Health Minister, Mam Bunheng, warned that children are at a high risk of contracting the disease if they are feeding or collecting eggs from domesticated poultry. He also said playing with the birds or cleaning their cages increases the risk of contracting bird flu.
The disease, known as avian influenza or H5N1, normally spreads in poultry but wasn’t deemed a threat to people until an outbreak in 1997 occurred at live poultry markets in Hong Kong.
The World Health Organisation director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed concern earlier this month that the bird flu could infect mammals, including otters, foxes, minks, and sea lions.
“H5N1 has spread widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spillover to mammals need to be monitored closely.”
Officials have also been concerned with the virus possibly evolving to spread more easily between people. Symptoms of the avian flu include aches, fever, cough, and life-threatening pneumonia.
The WHO says Cambodia has seen 56 cases H5N1 in humans from 2003 to 2014. Of those cases, 37 of them were fatal. Globally, the WHO says there have been 870 human infections and 457 deaths in 21 countries. But it noted that infections have slowed with only 170 infections and 50 deaths seen in the last seven years.
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