Two-Year-Old Pursat Girl Is 12th Victim of Avian Influenza

A 2-year-old girl from Pursat province’s Bakan district who died just hours after being admitted to the hospital on October 26 succumbed to bird flu, the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.

The death of the 2-year-old marks the 12th fatality out of 23 cases of avian influenza reported so far this year, officials said Monday. This year has seen the worst outbreak so far of avian influenza in Cambodia, which has been by far the worst affected country in the region.

Only two cases, one fatal, were confirmed in Vietnam this year, a country of some 87 million people, while Thailand, with some 70 million people, last confirmed avian influenza in humans in 2006, according to figures provided by the WHO.

Including the two cases in Viet­nam, a total of 11 cases (nine of which were fatal) were recorded outside Cambodia this year: in Bangladesh, China, Egypt and Indonesia.

“Unfortunately, she passed away because she was in a very serious condition already when she came to the Kantha Bopha Hospital so we couldn’t save her,” Dr. Ly Sovann, deputy director of the communicable disease department with the Ministry of Health, said Monday.

The girl died on October 26 after being brought to the hospital from Bakan district’s Boeng Bot Kandorl commune in Pursat.

Dr. Sovann attributed the high number of cases this year—the most severe since the disease was first reported in Cambodia in 2005 —to an increased movement of poultry infected by the virus.

“We think [the increase] is because the virus circulates in poultry, it happens more because of the [improved] road [conditions]. The knowledge of our clinicians is also better than before,” he said.

Dr. Sovann added that it was possible there were more cases that were not being recorded.

“It’s possible that there are more cases but not everyone goes to the hospital,” he said. The child who died was sick for two days before her family took her to Kantha Bopha, he added.

“The source is the poultry, so the animal health department

[of the Ministry of Agriculture] should take action. From the hu­man health side…that’s all we can do,” Dr. Sovann said.

Officials at the department of animal health on Monday referred questions to director Kao Phan, who declined to comment.

Sonny Krishnan, communications officer with the WHO, said that the low number of cases in neighboring countries was due to stricter laws on breeding poultry and enhanced monitoring of chickens and ducks.

“In Thailand they are very strict about transportation of poultry, there are a lot of inspections on the roads, and Vietnam has banned the backyard slaughter of poultry so all poultry is now slaughtered in government-approved slaughterhouses and inspected and afterwards stamped,” Mr. Krishnan said.

“That would be an ideal situation here too, but for that we need proper supervision of slaughterhouses and supervision can be quite difficult here,” he said.

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