The World Health Organization (WHO) set off alarms after the death of an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia due to avian complaint, to which was added the contagion of her father, aged 49. According to local health authorities, both relatives were infected with the H5N1 subtype, a highly infectious strain of the illness.
The family was originally from the province of Prey Vent, located in the southeast of the Asian country. The Cambodian government health surveillance agency (CDCD) indicated that the minor was infected on February 16 and presented symptoms of fever, cough and dry throat.
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The girl lost her life on Wednesday, February 22 at a children’s hospital in the capital Phnom Penh. This is the first death from bird flu in Cambodia since 2014 and the first worldwide in 2023. In addition to this, since 2015 no human cases of the disease have been detected in the country.
Following the girl’s case, authorities collected samples on Thursday from 12 people who had been in contact with her. For now, his father was the only one who tested positive, although he is asymptomatic. The CDCD found that both he and his daughter tested “positive for H5N1,” which they described as a highly contagious strain of the disease. As for the other studies, Health Minister Mam Bunheng did not disclose the other results.
health authorities They did not confirm if the adult was infected by being in contact with his daughter or if both were infected by a bird. However, they instructed the villagers not to touch sick or dead birds. In addition, they collected samples of winged birds in the area.
In this sense, Sylvie Briand, in charge of pandemic prevention at the WHO, reaffirmed what the Cambodian authorities maintained. In a press conference, the woman herself explained that “for the moment It’s too soon to tell if it’s a human-to-human transmission. or if it is linked to a common exposure to the same environment”.
The WHO described the global H5N1 situation as “worrying”
Although the avian complaint is rarely transmitted to humans, the WHO called at the beginning of February for vigilance against the risk of transmission of the disease to mammals after detecting cases in foxes, otters and sea lions. Although the virus has more opportunities to mutate when it spreads between different animals, the international body had clarified that the danger to people was low.
In the last two decades, the organization has recorded only 868 confirmed cases of H5N1 and 457 deaths. This disease is transmitted from birds to humans by direct contact, being extremely rare person-to-person transmission.
However, after the latest cases in Cambodia, on Friday the WHO assured that “the global situation linked to H5N1”, the original strain of the current avian flu epidemic, “is worrying”. “The global H5N1 situation is concerning, given the widespread spread of the virus in birds around the world and increasing reports of cases in mammals, including humans,” Briand explained.
And he added: “The WHO takes the risk of this virus very seriously. and urges all countries to intensify vigilance.”
Cases of bird complaints are growing and the outbreak is attributed to “migratory birds” from the northern hemisphere
Since the end of 2021, Europe has experienced the worst outbreak of bird flu in its history and in America there were also severe outbreaks. For that reason, tens of millions of domestic birds around the world (many with the H5N1 strain) were culled, while thousands of other wild birds lost their lives to the disease.
Although the virus is believed to circulate constantly among wild birds, massive rise in cases among domesticated birds alarmed experts because they often interact with humans, increasing the risk of spreading the disease to people.
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