Girl, 6, Becomes 9th to Die This Year of H5N1

A 6-year-old girl died of avian influenza in Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha hospital on Friday, bringing to nine the number of people to die of the disease in Cambodia since the outbreak began on January 21, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday.

The death of the little girl from Kampot province follows a three-month lull in cases.

“The Ministry of Health…wishes to advise members of the public that one more new human case of avian influenza has been confirmed positive for the H5N1 virus,” the statement says.

“This is 13th case this year…. In addition, there were only 4 cases out of 13 cases this year survived,” according to the statement.

The ministry said the latest victim was from Preyleu village in Kampot province’s Banteay Meas district, and WHO communications officer Sonny Krishnan said it was the province’s fifth human case so far, and the fourth death.

Dr. Denis Laurent, deputy director of Kantha Bopha hospital, said the child’s condition worsened and that she died on the same day that she was admitted.

“The child arrived at the hospital on Friday at 7 a.m.,” he said, adding that an initial chest X-ray “was very, very bad” and that doctors immediately suspected that she was suffering from avian influenza.

“We sent a specimen to the Pasteur Institut and at 4 p.m., we got a positive result in this case. Unfortunately, this small girl died at midnight the same day.”

The child had been sick for days prior to her admittance and treated at a private clinic, he said, adding that Kantha Bopha doctors administered Tamiflu and antibiotics.

The ministry said the girl was likely exposed to “sick or dead poultry” before falling ill.

The statement quoted Health Minister Dr. Mam Bunheng as saying that H5N1 remains a serious threat across the country, and urged people to stay away from sick or dead poultry and wash their hands after coming into contact with birds.

“If they have fast or difficult breathing, they should seek medical attention at the nearest health facility and attending physicians must be made aware of any exposure to sick or dead poultry,” Dr. Bunheng said.

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