Officials Say Kandal Bird Flu Case Unlikely

The incubation period for the human form of avian influenza has passed at the Kandal pro­vince farm where bird flu was discovered last week, health officials said Tuesday, quelling fears that the virus may have jumped to hu­mans.

Authorities reported infected chickens in Veal Spov village, Kien Svay district on Sept 21. A 2-year-old who lived on the farm tested negative for the H5N1 vi­rus after falling ill over the weekend with a cough, runny nose and mild fever, said Donna Mak, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organ­ization, on Monday. The human strain of bird flu has a two- to four-day incubation period, he said.

No human cases of bird flu have been confirmed in Cam­bodia, and no suspected cases are under investigation, health officials said Wednesday.

Still, with authorities in Thailand confronting what may be the first case of the H5N1 virus transmitted between humans, health experts in Cambodia said the country must be vigilant against the disease’s spread to humans.

“Since the outbreak of [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] and avian flu…the Ministry of Health is more focused,” Dr Ly Sovann, head of the ministry’s disease surveillance bureau, said Tuesday.

Cambodia’s arsenal against the lethal virus, however, is limited. Each provincial health department has only a single dosage of Tami­flu, the only drug known to be ef­fect­ive against human bird flu, Ly Sovann said. The Health Ministry is trying to get more of the drug with a grant from the Japanese gov­ernment, Ly Sovann said. Cambodia also has protective equip­­ment for health workers left over from the SARS scare, he said.

Health officials and animal specialists working in areas where bird flu is suspected—including 18 workers and villagers near the Kien Svay farm—have been vaccinated for human influenza, Ly Sovann said. The flu vaccine cannot prevent the avian influenza, but can be used to rule out hu­man flu if people get sick, Mak said. No vaccine is currently available for avian influenza.

(Addition­al reporting by Kuch Naren)


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