23 May 2024

A Thai virologist has warned that Thailand must raise its guard following the death of an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia from bird flu, in the country’s first known human H5N1 infection since 2014.

Dr. Anan Jongkaewwattana, a virologist at BIOTEC of the National Science and Technology Development Agency, said in his Facebook post on Thursday that he is concerned about pigs, which are susceptible to influenza and can become hosts to various new virus strains.

He said that the influenza outbreak in 2009 originated in pigs.

He also said that H5N1 has previously spread among mammals in several areas and, therefore, the infection in a human being in Thailand’s neighbouring country is a situation that requires close monitoring.

The girl, from the rural south-eastern province of Prey Veng, fell ill on February 16th and was taken to a hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh. She was diagnosed on Wednesday, after suffering a fever of 39oC with a cough and sore throat. She died soon after, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday night.

Health officials have taken samples from the carcass of a wild bird at a conservation area near the girl’s home, the ministry said in a further statement on Thursday. It said teams in the area will also warn residents about touching dead and sick birds.

Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bunheng warned that bird flu poses an especially high risk to children who may be feeding or collecting eggs from domesticated poultry, playing with the birds or cleaning their cages.