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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More