Cambodian toddler dies of bird flu, bringing cases to 23 so far this year

PHNOM PENH, (PNA/Xinhua) — A two-year-old girl from northwestern Pursat province died late last month from the H5N1 virus, bringing the number of the cases to 23 so far this year, a joint statement by the World Health Organization and the Cambodian Health Ministry said Monday.

Only 11 cases out of this year’s 23 cases survived, the statement said.

The little girl was confirmed positive for human H5N1 avian influenza after she was admitted to the Jayavarman VII Hospital in Siem Reap province on Oct. 25 with fever, running nose, lethargy, dyspnea, cough and breathing difficulties.

“The girl died on Oct. 26,” the statement said.

“Investigations in her village found that two months before the girl’s illness, poultry had suddenly died at her grandparent’s house, and the child often stayed with her grandparent in this house,” it said.

“Human and animal investigations are underway to determine if the girl had direct exposure or handled the dead chickens.”

“Avian influenza H5N1 remains a serious threat to the health of all Cambodians and more so far children seem to be most vulnerable and are at high risk,” Health Minister Mam Bunheng said.

He called on parents and guardians to keep children away from sick or dead poultry and make sure children wash their hands with soap and water after any contact with poultry.

H5N1 influenza is a flu that normally spreads between sick poultry, but it can sometimes spread from poultry to humans, according to the WHO.

Cambodia sees the worst outbreak of the virus this year since it was first identified in 2004. To date, the country has recorded 44 human cases of the virus, and 31 people had died of it.