Cambodia tests more people for bird flu after death of 11-year-old girl



PHNOM PENH, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Cambodia has tested at least 12 people for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the health ministry said, after an 11-year-old girl died this week from the virus in the first known transmission to humans in the country in nearly a decade.

The victim's father, who was part of a group the girl had been in contact with in a province east of the capital Phnom Penh, tested positive for the virus but did not exhibit any symptoms, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in a statement on Friday.

The statement did not disclose the test results of others in the group and did not specify how the victim's father had contracted the virus, commonly known as bird flu.

The girl's case was the first known human infection with the H5N1 strain in the Southeast Asian country since 2014, Bunheng had said on Thursday.

The girl from Prey Veng province was diagnosed with bird flu after falling sick with a high fever and cough on Feb. 16, the statement said.

When her condition deteriorated, she was transferred to the National Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh but died on Wednesday, the health ministry said.

Since early last year, bird flu has ravaged farms around the world, leading to the deaths of more than 200 million birds because of the disease or mass culls, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) recently told Reuters.

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month noted the spread to mammals of H5N1 influenza, but said the risk to humans remained low.

H5N1 had spread among poultry and wild birds for 25 years, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing, but recent reports of infections in mink, otters and sealions "need to be monitored closely".

Cambodian health authorities urged people not to handle dead or sick animals and birds, and to contact a hotline if anyone suspected they had been infected by the disease.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Jamie Freed, Martin Petty)


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