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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid