11-year-old Cambodian girl dies of bird flu, health officials say | World News

An 11-year-old girl from Cambodia has died from bird flu, the first death in the country since 2014, health officials said.

The girl, from the rural province of Previn in southeastern Cambodia, became ill on 16 February.

She went to a hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh, where she was diagnosed with influenza on Wednesday after developing a fever, cough and sore throat, and died shortly after, the health ministry said.

Local officials took samples of the dead birds at a conservation area near the girl’s home, and the area’s task force warned residents not to come into contact with dead and sick birds.

Avian flu, usually spread through poultry, was not considered a threat to humans until its outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, with most cases occurring in people who had direct contact with infected birds.

However, there are concerns that the virus may have evolved to spread more easily from person to person.

Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng said bird flu posed a particular threat to children, who may be collecting eggs from poultry or playing with the birds and cleaning out cages.

Symptoms of the flu, officially known as H5N1, are similar to those of other flus, including cough, aches and fever and, in some cases, life-threatening pneumonia.

Between 2003 and 2014, Cambodia had 56 cases of H5N1, including 37 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A total of 870 people have been infected worldwide and 457 deaths have been reported in 21 countries.

But the pace has slowed over the past seven years, with only about 170 infections and 50 deaths.

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently expressed concern about bird flu infection in mammals, warning that “the H5N1 virus has been circulating widely in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spread to mammals needs to be closely monitored.”

He added that the WHO is still evaluating Risk of Avian Influenza to Humans if low.

“But we cannot assume this will always be the case and we have to be prepared for any change in the status quo,” he said.

He advised people not to come into contact with dead or sick wild animals, and suggested that countries increase monitoring of environments where people interact with animals.

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