News / Asia

    New Bird Flu Case Raises Fears in Cambodia

    Posters aimed at raising awareness about bird flu are displayed at the Ministry of Health in Phnom Penh, April 6, 2006.
    Posters aimed at raising awareness about bird flu are displayed at the Ministry of Health in Phnom Penh, April 6, 2006.
    Robert Carmichael
    Two Cambodians have already died from bird flu in 2013, making a worrying start to the year.
     
    Now a two-year-old Cambodian girl is in a serious condition in Phnom Penh after being hospitalized with the H5N1 virus, also known as avian, or bird, flu.

    Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan, the communications officer for the World Health Organization in Phnom Penh, says the development has health professionals concerned.
     
    “This is the fourth case this month of human influenza H5N1," Krishnan said. "Last year we had three cases, so within one month in the new year we've got four cases, and we're quite concerned about that.”
     
    H5N1, which can spread from infected poultry to people, was first detected in humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. It is potent:  to date it has killed some 360 people worldwide, more than half of those confirmed as infected.
     
    The latest victims here were a 15-year-old girl, who died a week ago, and a 35-year-old man, who died last Wednesday. A baby who fell ill earlier in the month has recovered.
     
    Over the weekend officials culled and burned more than 4,000 chickens and ducks in the village that was home to the 15-year-old victim.
     
    However, other diseases such as dengue and malaria kill many more people than H5N1, so Krishnan was asked what is the concern with avian flu?
     
    “Well our specific worry is that this H5N1 virus could undergo what we call a recombination and then re-assortment with another influenza virus," he explained, "and that could give rise to a new virus that is transmittable between humans - so that’s our main concern.”
     
    Cambodia is a predominantly agricultural nation, and every village has its chickens and ducks. Health ministry staff are monitoring those who came into contact with the patients who were infected, and teams from the agriculture ministry are testing poultry in the affected villages and destroying sick birds.
     
    On Friday Health Minister Mam Bunheng called on parents to ensure their children wash their hands regularly, and stay away from sick and dead poultry. He also advised that children who develop breathing difficulties should be taken directly to the nearest health clinic.
     
    Krishnan says TV and radio are being used to spread that message.
     
    “So from this week onwards we're going to increase the number of radio and TV spots - telling them how to protect themselves and their families from avian influenza," he explained. "Especially to watch out for children playing with chickens - and also a very important message is to wash your hands.”
     
    Cambodia reported its first cases of H5N1 in 2005 when four people died. To date the worst year was 2011 when eight people were infected. All eight died.
     
    The country’s weak health sector is a hindrance and likely goes some way to explaining why Cambodia’s avian flu fatality rate of nearly 90 percent - 21 dead from a total of 24 infected - is so much higher than the global average of around 60 percent.
     
    The WHO’s Krishnan cautions against drawing too many conclusions from that, pointing out that the sample size is small. But, he says, there are local factors that compound the problem. When people fall ill, the first place their relatives take them is typically the local pharmacy or a private clinic. H5N1 can kill in little more than a week after infection, so losing a few days in failed treatments and misdiagnoses can be fatal.

    “So as the cases get worse and when the local clinics or the pharmacies can no longer prescribe any medicine, that’s when they're told to bring the kid or the patient to the hospital, and when they reach the hospital the chances are slim that they would survive,” Krishnan said.
     
    One looming complication is Chinese New Year, which starts on February 10. It is a time when large numbers of poultry are transported to markets, and that raises the risk that infected birds could spread the disease. Health professionals are hoping the information efforts underway now will pay off.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.