AN 11-year-old girl from Cambodia has died from bird flu – the first person to die from the bug this year.
While avian flu typically affects poultry and wild birds, it can be transmitted to mammals, including humans.
Fears have been raised in recent weeks over the “unprecedented” current outbreak, which has infected a multitude of mammals – including otters and foxes – since October last year.
The girl from rural Prey Veng province in southeastern Cambodia fell ill on February 16, health officials said.
She was diagnosed with the pathogen on Wednesday afternoon after she had a fever and cough of up to 39 degrees – she died shortly afterwards.
Health officials took samples from a dead bird at a wildlife sanctuary near the girl’s home, the ministry said.
Residents have been asked not to touch dead and sick birds in the area.
Only 870 people have contracted bird flu in the past 20 years – and more than half (53 percent) of them have died.
Doctor Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at the London Medical Laboratory, is now urging the government to step up precautionary measures.
What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?
The main symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly and include:
- a very high temperature or feeling hot or chills
- Muscle cramp
- cough or shortness of breath
Other early symptoms can include:
- stomach pain
- chest pain
- bleeding from the nose and gums
Source: The NHS
He said: “We are becoming accustomed to outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, commonly known as avian or bird flu, on UK poultry farms.
“We must not allow familiarity with this situation to settle us.
“The fact that it is now spreading to mammals around the world shows that we cannot protect ourselves from the spread of this virus.”
WHO world scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar, who was previously director of the Wellcome Trust, said the avian H5N1 virus posed the world’s biggest post-Covid pandemic threat.
“If there were a human outbreak of H5N1 tomorrow in Europe, the Middle East, America or Mexico, we would not be able to vaccinate the world in 2023,” Sir Jeremy, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist-designate, said at a news conference in London last week.
There is currently no preventive vaccine against the virus.
Sir Jeremy is now urging governments to invest in testing all available influenza vaccines against the H5N1 strain.
“If there was an H5N1 outbreak [in humans] at least we knew we had vaccines available that were safe and effective.
“And if it doesn’t happen, you haven’t lost because you still have her [vaccines],” he said.
Professor Diana Bell, a zoonotic disease expert from the University of East Anglia, echoed Sir Jeremy’s comments calling for research into a new vaccine.
“We have to be proactive and not be caught on the back foot again,” she told The Sun.
“Most of the human deaths from this virus occurred in the early 2000s – and there have been a few human cases recently.
“But obviously with so many viruses, that could change very quickly,” she added.
Avian flu has so far been diagnosed in just one person in the UK when Alan Gosling, 79, a retired engineer in Devon, caught it from ducks at his home in December 2021.
https://www.the-sun.com/health/7472360/bird-flu-first-death-girl/ Girl, 11, dies of bird flu in Cambodia as medics warn we ‘must step up precautions’