Bird Flu Kills Girl in Prey Veng

Officials are urging parents to take precautions after an 11-year-old girl died of avian flu in Prey Veng province
A woman holds a baby in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A woman holds a baby in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Health officials have launched an investigation after an 11-year-old girl died of bird flu in Prey Veng province, with authorities urging the community to take preventative measures.

Minister of Health, Mam Bunheng, said in a statement Thursday that the girl, from Sithor Kandal district, tested positive for H5N1 on February 22. She died the same day after being admitted to a hospital a day earlier.

Bunheng said this is the first H5N1 case since 2014 and that the girl had begun to feel sick on February 16, with symptoms of coughing, high fever and fatigue. The statement added that, according to talks with villagers, many dead wild animals and birds were found in the area. Authorities are still awaiting the results of tests.

Bunheng said in the statement that the H5N1 strain of bird flu continues to pose a threat to people and is more prevalent in children, who are at high-risk.

Children often play with birds and may have been in contact with the dead birds, the Minister warned. He added that parents should remain vigilant and keep children away from sick or dead birds, make them wash their hands and to report any suspicious​ respiratory symptoms.

The statement said that H5N1 can spread from sick birds to humans, causing severe and potentially fatal diseases. Early detection and prevention of transmission are crucial to prevent outbreaks, it added.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General, said earlier this month that H5N1 has spread widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spillover to mammals needs to be monitored closely.

“We cannot assume that will remain the case, and we must prepare for any change in the status quo,” he said.