Tragedy as 11-year-old girl dies from bird flu in Cambodia

Poultry can carry bird flu/Shutterstock Images

23 February 2023, Phnom Penh: An eleven-year-old girl has died from the bird flu virus, H5N1, or avian influenza, in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia. It is the country’s first known infection since 2014, the 57th recorded case of bird flu since the virus hit Cambodia more than two decades ago.

The girl became ill on February 16, with a 39 degree Celsius fever, coughing and throat pain. She was admitted to hospital in the capital but died shortly afterwards, the Cambodian Health Ministry said on Wednesday evening.

Since late 2021 there has been a severe outbreak of bird flu in Europe, North and South America, leading to the culling of tens of millions of domestic poultry worldwide. The global outbreak has also led to tens of thousands of wild bird deaths as well.

Some mammals have recently caught the disease, such as foxes, otters and sea lions, amid concern humans could be at greater risk. The disease was known to affect poultry and was no threat to humans until a 1997 outbreak in people visiting live poultry markets in Hong Kong.

The recent spillover to mammals needs to be monitored closely,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this month, stressing that “for the moment, WHO assesses the risk to humans as low.”

“But we cannot assume that will remain the case, and we must prepare for any change in the status quo,” he said. He advised for people not to touch dead or sick wild animals and for countries to strengthen their surveillance of settings where people and animals interact.

There have been more than 870 human infections and 450 fatal human bird flu cases in the 20 years since 2003, according to the WHO.

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