A senior WHO official on Friday said the global spread of avian flu and human infections are “worrying,” after an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia died after being infected with the virus.
WHO Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness Director Sylvie Briand said the UN agency is “in close communication with the Cambodian authorities to understand more about the outbreak.”
Speaking ahead of a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on influenza vaccines, Briand called the global avian flu situation “worrying given the wide spread of the virus in birds around the world, and the increasing reports of cases in mammals, including humans.”
Photo: AFP / Cambodia`s Communicable Disease Control Department
“WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and urges heightened vigilance from all countries,” she said.
Independent experts also have expressed concern over a wave of avian flu that has spread through much of the world since late 2021, posing a potential public health risk.
The Cambodian girl, from a village in the southeastern province of Prey Veng, died on Wednesday at a hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh, shortly after tests confirmed she had Type A H5N1 avian influenza, the Cambodian Ministry of Health said.
She had fallen ill on Thursday last week, and when her condition declined she was sent to the hospital with a fever as high as 39°C with coughing and throat pain.
The girl’s father tested positive for the virus, but has not displayed any major symptoms, health authorities said on Friday.
Avian flu normally spreads among poultry, but can sometimes spread from poultry to humans. The recent detection of infections in a variety of mammals, including at a large mink farm in Spain, has raised concern among experts that the virus could evolve to spread more easily between people, and potentially trigger a pandemic.
Health ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann said the father’s case is under investigation, and it was not yet known how he became infected.
He has been put in isolation at a local district hospital for monitoring and treatment, Ly said.
A ministry team collected samples from 12 people from the girl’s village known to have had direct contact with her, and laboratory tests on Friday confirmed that only her father was infected.
Health professionals have expressed concern about a wave of bird flu that has spread worldwide in the past year and a half, but consider the current risk to humans to be low.
“There has been a massive global challenge of wild and domestic birds with the current H5N1 avian influenza virus over the last few months and years, which will have exposed many humans; despite this, what is remarkable is how few people have been infected,” University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine professor James Wood said in an e-mailed statement.
“Tragic though this case in Cambodia is, we expect there to be some cases of clinical disease with such a widespread infection. Clearly the virus needs careful monitoring and surveillance to check that it has not mutated or recombined, but the limited numbers of cases of human disease have not increased markedly and this one case in itself does not signal the global situation has suddenly changed,” Wood added.
WHO data show that there were 56 avian flu cases in humans in Cambodia from 2003 to 2014, and 37 of them were fatal.
Globally, about 870 human infections and 457 deaths have been reported to the WHO in 21 countries, for an overall case fatality rate of 53 percent.
Vaccines that protect against severe illness, death and lingering long COVID-19 symptoms from a SARS-CoV-2 infection were linked to small increases in neurological, blood and heart-related conditions in the largest global vaccine safety study to date. The rare events — identified early in the pandemic — included a higher risk of heart-related inflammation from mRNA shots made by Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, and an increased risk of a type of blood clot in the brain after immunization with viral-vector vaccines such as the one developed by the University of Oxford and made by AstraZeneca PLC. The viral-vector jabs were
Women on Thursday officially joined a so-called “naked festival” at a shrine in central Japan for the first time in the event’s 1,250-year history, donning purple robes and chanting excitedly as they bore a large bamboo trunk as an offering. Seven groups of women took part in the ritual which is said to drive away evil spirits and where participants pray for happiness. Despite its name, those taking part are not naked. Many women wore “Happi Coats” (robes that reach to the hips) and shorts that are typically worn at Japanese festivals, although men just wore loincloths similar to those worn by
DECLINE: About 27 million Argentines are poor, of which 15 percent are mired in ‘destitution,’ meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, a study showed Poverty levels last month skyrocketed to 57.4 percent of Argentina’s population of 46 million, the highest rate in 20 years, a study by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) showed. The findings quickly unleashed accusations between Argentina’s former vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the government of President Javier Milei, who came to power announcing a series of shock measures aimed at tackling the country’s severe crisis. About 27 million people in Argentina are poor and 15 percent of those are mired in “destitution,” meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, according to the study released over the weekend. The UCA’s
‘DRAGON SLAYERS’: The alleged members of a radical protest group were arrested after police accused them of planning a bomb attack during a Human Rights Day rally Fourteen people yesterday went on trial in Hong Kong for allegedly planning to carry out a bomb attack to murder police officers during pro-democracy protests in 2019, with prosecutors invoking the territory’s anti-terrorism act. The defendants, allegedly members of a radical protest group called “Dragon Slayers,” were arrested after police accused them of planning to carry out a bomb attack during a rally marking International Human Rights Day. Thousands of people have been rounded up and charged over their involvement in months of huge and at times violent protests that started in 2019 calling for greater autonomy from Beijing’s rule. Hong Kong