New Bird Flu Case Confirmed in Village Where Two Recently Died

The year’s third case of human avian influenza has been confirmed in a 4-year-old boy in the same village in Kratie province where two siblings died of the virus earlier this month, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

The 4-year-old from Snuol district’s Sre Cha commune was found to have contracted the H5N1 virus after the Ministry of Health’s rapid response team noticed that he had developed a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and vomiting on February 12, the ministry and WHO said in a joint statement.

“First we had [2014’s] case number 2 in the village, and then the rapid response team set up surveillance and that’s how we found him,” Vicky Houssiere, WHO communications officer, said.

The boy, Ms. Houssiere said, was administered Tamiflu, the anti-retroviral drug recommended for H5N1 treatment, and is currently in good condition at Kratie provincial hospital.

“This is the first time that we found a new case through the rapid response team and their surveillance, so this is really good news,” she said, adding that the teams usually stayed in areas where outbreaks have been confirmed to educate residents not to eat or touch dead and sick poultry and to test people showing symptoms of H5N1, which are similar to a seasonal influenza.

About 350 chickens, geese and ducks on backyard farms in Kbal Trach village had died starting mid-January, Ms. Houssiere said.

Earlier this month, a 8-year-old boy and his 2-year-old sister died after they ate a sick chicken their father had prepared for them.

After bird flu was confirmed as the boy’s cause of death—the girl could not be tested as she had already passed away—residents became concerned about their own sick livestock and many people culled them.

“Almost everybody killed their chickens if they were sick,” Lech Kroeunh, Kbal Trach deputy village chief, said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health and the WHO launched a public awareness campaign in January, calling on people to stay away from sick and dead poultry.

The campaigns were also frequently broadcast last year, when 12 people died of a total of 26 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans, the worst outbreak the county has seen since the virus was first found in 2005.

The public awareness campaigns appear to have brought little change in people’s behavior, and the Ministry of Agriculture has been criticized for refusing to provide compensation for poultry that dies or must be culled, which has proven successful in neighboring countries.

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