Second Cambodian dies of avian flu

Mar 24, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – A 28-year-old man has become Cambodia's second person to die of avian influenza, health authorities there announced today.

The man, named Meas Ran, fell ill earlier this week and died late Mar 22, Cambodian Health Minister Nuth Sokhom told Agence France-Presse (AFP) today. The virus has been confirmed as H5, and a sample was being sent to France as a formality to confirm it is H5N1, said Jean-Louis Sarthou, director of the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia's second victim lived in the village of Tram Sasor in Kampot province, only about 20 kilometers from the first victim, a 25-year-old woman who died Jan. 30, AFP reported.

More than 600 chickens have died in half a dozen villages in Kampot during the past 3 weeks, and another 120 were culled yesterday, said Yim Voeunthan, secretary of state at the ministry of agriculture, in an AFP story. Villagers hadn't revealed the outbreak because they didn't want their remaining chickens to be culled, he added. Now that fear is being realized.

"Many people have cooked the sick or dead birds to eat because they are very poor, but no one fell sick," The Standard of Hong Kong quoted Voeunthan as saying. He was quoted by AFP as also saying, "Villagers were eating the dead chickens even though we warned them not to . . . now the villagers are afraid. They dare not eat chicken anymore."

It's not clear whether Ran had been in contact with poultry. Media reports described him variously as a traveling businessman who sometimes worked in Vietnam and as a man who owned chickens. Dr. Heng Taykry, director of the Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh, where Ran died, said Ran appeared to have been infected after eating dead chickens, according to a Reuters story today. Several of his relatives have tested negative for avian flu, the doctor added.

Sarthou said there are no other suspected human cases of avian flu in Cambodia, according to AFP.

Suspected cases in Vietnam still under investigation
In neighboring Vietnam, authorities are still investigating whether there is any truth in an earlier report that up to 195 people had signs of avian flu in the central province of Quang Binh.

A senior provincial health official in Quang Binh, Truong Dinh Dinh, challenged state media reports, telling Reuters that no one was in serious condition and nobody had symptoms requiring medical care.

A doctor in central Vietnam said tests on several residents in Quang Binh's Chau Hoa commune have all been negative, AFP reported today. A Reuters story indicated several people were being monitored, including a 41-year-old man from Chau Hoa who walked out of a hospital on Wednesday.

Peter Horby, a World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist in Hanoi, told AFP there was "no serious information so far to substantiate media reports."

At least one case occurred in Chau Hoa recently: A 5-year-old boy was hospitalized Mar 15 and tested positive for H5N1. His condition was described today as stable. His sister had died Mar 9 of a similar illness, but she was not tested.

Hong Kong takes precautions
Hong Kong reacted yesterday to the reports from Quang Binh by creating a hotline to handle questions from Vietnamese tourists or from Hong Kong residents who might feel ill after traveling in Vietnam. Hong Kong already had been conducting temperature screening and distributing health information at the airport for passengers heading to or returning from Vietnam. Travelers going to countries with avian flu among poultry have been advised to avoid visiting farms and avoid contact with chickens or poultry feces.

In addition, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection has been collaborating with the WHO and the Vietnamese consulate to keep current on the situation in Vietnam, according to a government news release yesterday.

In other developments, this week brought rumors of a flu outbreak among poultry in Myanmar, but the government has denied the reports. Myanmar authorities responded to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) request for information today by assuring the FAO the country had no cases of avian flu.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Indonesian government announced this week it will spend 1 billion Indonesian rupiahs (about US $106,100) to compensate small poultry producers for recent losses due to avian flu, according to a story yesterday in the Jakarta Post online. More than 12,000 birds died of avian flu in January and February on the island of Java, although that outbreak that didn't come to light until early this month.

Compensation was capped at US 21 cents (2000 Indonesian Rupiahs) per chicken and 5,000 chickens per producer. Each Indonesian farmer who is reimbursed will receive roughly US $1,050, under today's exchange rate.

See also:

Hong Kong government news release
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200503/23/03230208.htm

CIDRAP avian flu case-count tables
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/avianflu/case-count/avflucount.html

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