Three people suffering from high fever and strenuous coughing were admitted to Calmette Hospital on Saturday and are being tested for bird flu, officials said.
The three, from Kompong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district, were hospitalized following last week’s death of a 3-year-old from avian influenza in the same district.
Test results of samples taken from two children and one adult will be available today or Tuesday, said Ly Sovann, deputy director for the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department.
Ly Sovann would not give the names or ages of the three patients or say whether they were related, although he mentioned that they had handled dead chickens before falling ill.
“The children were playing with dead chickens, the adult was plucking them to cook,” Ly Sovann said.
If the tests are positive, it would mark a serious and concentrated bird flu outbreak, said Kao Phal, director for the Ministry of Health’s Department of Animal Health and Production. The 3-year-old, who died on March 21, was the first person in Cambodia to die of bird flu this year; four died of it in 2005.
Kao Phal said that test results for chickens and ducks in Kong Pisei district are also expected today or Tuesday. A negative result in the fowl would not necessarily mean that avian influenza had mutated and was now being contracted human-to-human or through contact with other animals such as pigs, he added.
Such a mutation was feared last year, he said, when villagers in Kampot province’s Kompong Trach and Kampot districts tested positive for bird flu but their poultry did not. Kao Phal suspects those cases may have been due to the villagers being in contact with birds or ducks in neighboring provinces or across the border in Vietnam or Thailand, he said.
Megge Miller, epidemiologist for the World Health Organization, said Ministry of Health and WHO officials are working to inform Kong Pisei villagers of the dangers of avian influenza and may soon begin monitoring nearby areas.
“This shows us that the virus is still around. It has not gone away,” she said.