First Cambodian case of avian flu confirmed

Feb 2, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Vietnamese officials have confirmed that a Cambodian woman who died Jan 30 in Vietnam had avian influenza, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

The 25-year-old woman apparently was the first person from somewhere other than Vietnam or Thailand to die of the disease since the current series of widespread poultry outbreaks and linked human cases began in late 2003.

The Cambodian woman became ill Jan 21 in her home province of Kampot, the WHO reported. She sought medical care in neighboring Vietnam Jan 27 and died in Vietnam's Kieng Giang Provincial Hospital Jan 30. Tests at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, were positive for H5 influenza yesterday, the agency said.

Also today, the Associated Press (AP) reported that a 24-year-old man in Hanoi has tested positive for H5N1 avian flu but is recovering. The man had been admitted to the city's Bach Mai hospital Jan 25, according to a physician who was quoted anonymously.

The AP and Reuters today said 45 people have died of H5N1 avian flu since late 2003. But the WHO's official case count, updated today, is 42 deaths among 55 confirmed cases since January 2004. That includes 37 cases with 29 deaths in Vietnam, 17 cases with 12 deaths in Thailand, and one fatal case in Cambodia.

The WHO count does not include two Vietnamese girls, aged 13 and 10, who died Jan 29 and 30; the agency said the Vietnamese government had not yet confirmed their cases. The WHO also cited as an unconfirmed case the death of a man in his 30s from the northern Vietnam province of Phu Tho. It was not clear if he was the 39-year-old man from Da Nang who was mentioned as a suspected case in a Reuters report earlier this week.

Assuming that the Vietnamese government confirms the cases in the two girls and the man in his 30s, Vietnam has had 13 cases since mid-December, including 12 fatal ones, the WHO said. But news services have put the number as high as 18.

With the Cambodian woman's death, H5N1 avian flu has now claimed victims in four countries. Human cases first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, when 18 people fell ill and 6 of them died. In February 2003 a Hong Kong man died of the infection, but his young son survived. After major poultry outbreaks began in eastern Asia late 2003, the first human cases were reported in Vietnam in January 2004.

Reuters reported today that relatives of the Cambodian victim said her family had cooked and eaten chickens that had died. The relatives later complained of respiratory problems, but tests at the Pasteur Institute showed they did not have the virus, a Cambodian health official named Sok Touch was quoted as saying.

However, an Agence France-Presse report today quoted the head of the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as saying the test results for the woman's relatives would not be available until tomorrow.

The WHO said it was collaborating with Cambodian officials on an investigation of the case.

The Cambodian woman's father said her 14-year-old brother had died in mid-January of a similar illness, according to the AFP report. But a health official said it was too late to test his remains for the virus, the story said.

In other news, health workers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest city, today launched a campaign to kill all of the city's 210,000 ducks, according to a Reuters report. The city set a goal of completing the task by Feb 6. Half of the ducks are raised outdoors on small farms, the story said.

See also:

Feb 2 WHO statement

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