Silent carriers: possible culprits in avian flu transmission?

April 12, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Although an 8-year-old Cambodian girl's death was caused by the H5N1 virus, it's not clear how she developed avian flu.

She had been in contact with infected chickens in February, "but the exposure period is too long," said Megge Miller, a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Cambodia, in an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story. The girl became sick on Mar 29 and died on Apr 7, news reports said.

Follow-up evaluation of people who had contact with the girl during her illness showed that none of the 13 tested for H5N1 had contracted the virus.

"Human-to-human transmission as a source of the girl's infection appears unlikely, as none of her known contacts were sick with similar symptoms before she became ill," a WHO news release said today.

Ducks may have caused her illness, Miller said.

"We're looking at the potential of the role of ducks as asymptomatic carriers," Miller told AFP in a story yesterday. Ducks are known as silent carriers of H5N1 because they may carry and spread large amounts of the virus without appearing sick.

Department of animal health officials were considering whether to cull all poultry within 3 miles of the girl's home in Kampot province, AFP reported.

Elsewhere in Asia, officials in Hong Kong and southern China announced today that the culling of 8,000 chickens in Shenzhen was not due to avian flu, news outlets reported.

The chickens, which were culled and buried after suffering "abnormal health conditions" were part of a flock of 100,000 in Shenzhen, which provides chickens for Hong Kong, according to an AFP story.

"A report was received from the State General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which confirmed that some of the chickens in the farm had been found to have respiratory tract disease," according to a statement reported today by AFP. "Initial tests on the avian influenza virus were conducted on other live chickens in the farm and all results were negative," the statement noted.


See also:

Today's WHO news release on avian flu:

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