Cambodia, China report H5N1 fatalities

Feb 13, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – H5N1 avian influenza killed two more people, a young girl whose illness was first announced by Cambodian authorities today and a Chinese woman whose infection was first reported 3 days ago.

Cambodia's health ministry, in a joint statement with the World Health Organization (WHO) said the 3-year-old girl who died was from Kampot province and is the country's seventh H5N1 case so far this year. She got sick on Feb 3 and was first treated by local private practitioners.

When her condition worsened she was taken to Kantha Bopha Hospital in Phnom Penh on Feb 6, where she died today after having fever, abdominal pain, and somnolence. The Pasteur Institute in Cambodia confirmed H5N1 in the girl's lab samples on Feb 11.

An investigation into the source of her infection identified recent poultry deaths in the girl's village and reported that she had contact with sick poultry before she started having symptoms. Kampot province is in southern Cambodia and borders two other provinces—Kampong Speu and Takeo—that reported H5N1 cases this year.

The girl's infection marks Cambodia's 28th H5N1 case since 2005, and her death raises the country's total number of deaths from the disease to 25. All but one of the seven H5N1 cases this year have been fatal.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old woman hospitalized in critical condition with an H5N1 infection in China's Guizhou province died this morning, Xinhua, the country's state news agency, reported. Hers is one of two H5N1 cases announced by China's health ministry on Feb 10.

The woman and a 31-year-old male case-patient are both from Guiyang, the province's capital. However, so far investigators have found no epidemiologic links between the two patients. According to previous reports, the woman got sick on Feb 2 after having no apparent contact with poultry.

Earlier this week the man was also reported to be hospitalized in critical condition. China's two new cases fit a pattern of infections without exposure to poultry, raising questions about possible surveillance gaps in poultry or problems with China's vaccination program.

The timing of the infections also raise concerns, because they come as millions of Chinese citizens are exposed to crowded travel conditions en route to their Lunar New Year celebrations.

If the WHO confirms the two cases, China's H5N1 total would rise to 45 infections and 29 deaths. Also, the additional case and two new H5N1 deaths would push the global H5N1 count to 619 illnesses, including 367 deaths.

See also:

Feb 13 WHO statement

Feb 13 Xinhua news story

Feb 11 CIDRAP News story "China reports two H5N1 cases, both critical"

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