A 13-year-old girl from Kompong Cham province’s Ponhea Krek district died of bird flu Thursday, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization said Friday.
The girl represents the seventh confirmed case of avian influenza in Cambodia since 2005 and the first so far this year, the ministry and WHO said in a joint statement.
The girl fell ill with diarrhea and fever on Monday and was admitted to a local hospital before her worsening condition led her to seek treatment in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. She passed away a day later.
According to the statement, samples from the girl sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh tested positive for the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Dr Simon Firestone, an epidemiologist with the WHO, said by telephone from the girl’s village that the results of the tests were learned Friday morning, but there was already suspicion that the girl had contracted the virus. He added that the Ministry of Health was conducting a full investigation.
Dr Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department, said that ministry officials are already going door to door in the area around the girl’s home checking for other people that might be infected. He added that it is still too soon to know if anybody else might have contracted the disease.
“We have only one case, but we are concerned that there may be others,” he said.
Sok Touch said that it is believed that the girl contracted the virus while preparing a meal using an infected chicken.
Yon Fernandez, emergency coordinator for avian flu for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said that a joint mission of the Ministry of Health, WHO, FAO, the Pasteur Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Animal Health and Production Investigation Center was already investigating.
“The team is in the field, and we are monitoring the situation,” he said.