Cambodian boy dies in second bird flu case

March 08, 2014 - 1:38:22 am
PHNOM PENH: A three-year-old Cambodian boy has died of bird flu, the health ministry said yesterday, in the country’s second fatality this year.

The boy, from a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, died in hospital on Sunday. Tests confirmed he had contracted the H5N1 virus, the ministry said in a statement with World Health Organisation (WHO).

Many of the chickens and ducks in the boy’s village died mid-February and he may have come into contact with the dead birds, the statement said, without specifying if the poultry had been tested for H5N1. 

“Avian influenza H5N1 remains a serious threat to the health of all Cambodians and more so for children,” health minister Mam Bunheng said, urging parents to ensure their children do not play with birds.

The disease spreads from birds to humans through direct contact. But experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to trigger a pandemic. Cambodian children are at risk as they often live in proximity to poultry, the health minister said.

An eight-year-old boy from Cambodia’s eastern Kratie province died of H5N1 in February. His two-year-old sister died the same day but authorities said tests could not be carried out to confirm she had the virus.

Hong Kong and mainland China have seen a recent spike in cases of the H7N9 strain, although WHO has said the rise in cases this year was not due to seasonal factors. AFP