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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs