A 27-year-old man from Prey Veng province’s Kompong Leav district died from respiratory complications on Saturday after contracting the H5N1 virus, the Health Ministry and World Health Organization announced jointly yesterday, marking the eighth avian influenza-related death in Cambodia.
The patient died at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital after being transferred from a hospital in Prey Veng, according to a statement issued yesterday by the Health Ministry and WHO. The Prey Veng provincial health department’s “Rapid Response Teams” are monitoring the situation and searching for people who may have been in contact with the victim.
Tes Sam Oeun, a member of the provincial rapid response team, identified the victim as In Rithy from Prek Chrey commune.
“We told the commune police and commune chief to inform their villagers not to go far away from the village,” Mr Sam Oeun said. “If they stay in their village it is easier to control” the spread of the flu.
Ros Chanavuth, another team member, said that medical tests were being conducted on the victim’s family members.
“After we did the investigating we found that [In Rithy] cut and prepared an infected chicken to eat before he became sick about a week ago,” Mr Chanavuth said.
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng warned in yesterday’s joint statement that the avian influenza virus was still a threat.
“I urge communities to be on the lookout for sick poultry,” Dr Bun Heng said in the statement.
The H5N1 virus most commonly passes to humans via bird droppings but is considered by medical professionals to be a potential pandemic threat if the virus finds a way to jump between humans, said Nima Asgari, a WHO public health specialist.
In Cambodia, cases of bird flu continue go undiagnosed but things are improving as a result of training, Dr Asgari said.
“They are moving in the right direction,” he said. “Out of the three most recent cases, two patients infected with the H5N1 virus recovered.”
Culling infected birds minimizes the risk of avian flu but the infected birds can be difficult to trace if the virus is first identified in humans. “It is a dynamic situation given the transportation and importation of poultry,” Dr Asgari said.