Boy, 3, Dies From Bird Flu in Phnom Penh

A three-year-old boy from Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district passed away from bird flu this week after almost all poultry in his Choam Chao commune village died from the H5N1 virus, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

The case is the sixth confirmed case of H5N1 in humans so far this year, compared to nine cases in the same period last year. “He was confirmed positive after he died,” Vicky Houssiere, WHO communications officer, said on Friday.

More humans died of and contracted the virus in 2013 than in any other year since H5N1 was first found to be circulating in poultry in Cambodia in 2004. In total, 12 people died out of a total of 26 confirmed cases last year.

As in almost all previous cases, prior to the infection and death of the three-year old boy a large number of backyard poultry had died in Prey Lyea village. But the sudden death of chickens and ducks went unreported.

“Around mid-February, over 90 percent of the chicken and small number of ducks suddenly died in the village. The boy was often going to a neighbor’s house where their poultry died,” the WHO and the Ministry of Health said in a joint statement.

“We saw that a lot of chickens were dying, but we thought that it can’t be H5N1, because this can’t happen in our village,” Prey Lyea village chief Nop Kosal said on Friday.

The Ministry of Health has sent a Rapid Response Team to Prey Lyea to increase surveillance, Mr. Kosal said. “They [Rapid Response Team] spent two days already to see how the children are doing…. We still can’t believe that this happened in our village, and we regret that someone died,” he said.

Soon after the poultry deaths, on February 22, the boy started coughing, vomiting, and had fever and running nose, symptoms typical of bird flu but often mistaken for a seasonal influenza.

“His parents sought treatment at a private clinic the same day. His condition worsened and the boy was admitted to National Pediatric Hospital on February 28,” the WHO and the Ministry said, adding that the child died shortly after being admitted to Calmette Hospital on Sunday.

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