Avian flu claims third victim in Cambodia

Apr 11, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Avian influenza claimed its third Cambodian victim when an 8-year-old girl died in a Phnom Penh hospital Apr 7, news services reported yesterday.

The girl was from Kampot, the same province as Cambodia's first two victims of H5N1 avian flu, said Ly Sovann, head of the Cambodian health minstry's infectious disease department, as quoted in an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

"According to our initial investigations, the girl died from bird flu," Sovann was quoted as saying. "We have received confirmation from the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh."

The girl, who died in Kantha Bopha Hospital, lived in Sre Treng village, about 12 miles from the village where Cambodia's second avian flu victim lived, an agriculture ministry official told AFP. The official said chickens in the village had been sick about 2 months ago, but no infected poultry had been found there recently.

Unofficially, 83 people have contracted avian flu and 52 have died since the illness began spreading through eastern Asia in late 2003. That includes 63 cases with 37 deaths in Vietnam, 17 cases with 12 deaths in Thailand, and 3 fatal cases in Cambodia.

A report by the Vietnam News Agency said the Cambodian girl had suffered a high fever since Mar 31 and died shortly after arriving in Phnom Penh from a hospital in her home province.

A Reuters report yesterday quoted health officials as saying the girl probably had caught the disease directly from infected poultry, like almost all the other victims so far.

North Korea asks for help
In other news, North Korea formally appealed last week for international help in battling its outbreak of H7 avian flu in poultry, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The appeal was made public at a Paris conference on avian flu that ended Apr 8, the FAO and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in a statement.

About 219,000 chickens at several farms in the Pyongyang area were sacrificed because of the avian flu outbreak. The virus has been described only as H7; the N (neuraminidase) number has not been reported. The outbreak marks the first appearance of H7 avian flu in Asia, according to the FAO.

North Korea asked the FAO and OIE to provide diagnostic tools and technical assistance for disease control, including vaccination, the FAO said. The statement said FAO and OIE welcomed the request as a sign of increased openness and cooperation.

North Korea also appealed specifically to South Korea for help in battling the outbreak on Apr 8, according to an AFP report. South Korea responded with an offer of medicine and quarantine equipment, AFP reported today. The story said North Korea replied by proposing to hold talks on the matter from Apr 20 to 22 at the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

The North Koreans also sent a list of medicine and quarantine equipment it needed, AFP reported.

North Korean outbreak described
North Korea sent an official report of its avian flu outbreak to the OIE Apr 7 and 8, as shown on the OIE Web site. The report says the outbreak began at the Hadang chicken farm Feb 25, leading to the sacrifice and burial of about 152,000 chickens there. Chickens in unaffected buildings and on neighboring farms were subsequently vaccinated with an inactivated virus vaccine derived from the chickens that had died.

A second outbreak began about Mar 5 at two neighboring chicken farms, called Sopo and Mangyangdae, according to the North Korean report. About 52,000 and 15,000 chickens were sacrificed at those two farms. No further outbreaks were detected after Mar 7.

Because of a lack of standard sera and testing kits, it took until Mar 26 to identify the virus as H7, the report says.

Some news services recently have described H7 avian flu as posing no risk of human infection. However, a major outbreak of H7N7 avian flu in poultry in the Netherlands in 2003 led to at least 89 human cases. Symptoms in most of these were limited to conjunctivitis, but one veterinarian died of pneumonia.

At the Paris conference last week, the FAO and OIE said about $100 million (US) is urgently needed to combat avian flu in Asia and appealed to potential donor countries for funds. To date, only Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands have promised to help the affected countries, the FAO statement said.

See also:

Apr 8 FAO statement
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/101678/index.html

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