Girl dies H5N1 from bird flu in Cambodia, WHO worried

Girl dies H5N1 from bird flu in Cambodia, WHO worried
Chickens cramped in cages at a farm, credit: Reuters/Mariana Nedelcu

An 11-year-old girl died in Prey Veng province in Cambodia after she was infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the ministry of health said in a statement on Thursday. Her father, who had been showing symptoms, also tested positive for the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is describing the situation as “worrying” because of the recent increase in bird and mammal cases.

“The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the wide spread of the virus in birds around the world and the increasing reports of cases in mammals, including humans,” Sylvie Briand, the director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention at WHO, said. 

“WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and urges heightened vigilance from all countries,” she added.

Earlier this month, the WHO rated the risk to humans from bird flu as low, but in light of the recent developments, it’s now reviewing its global risk assessment. 

WHO is working closely with Cambodian authorities, which tested twelve people in the area. Health workers have disinfected the property in Prey Veng province.

Briand said it was unclear whether there had been human-to-human transmission, or if the two cases were due to the “same environmental conditions,” like close contact with birds or other animals.

In 2020, the new strain of H5N1 emerged and has been causing unprecedented numbers of deaths among wild birds, farm animals and mammals in recent months.

Europe and the United States have experienced their worst bird flu outbreaks, leading to authorities killing over 100 million turkeys, ducks, chickens and other birds: 52 million in Europe and 50 million in the US. After the animals are killed, their bodies are either burned or buried.

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