AN 11-year-old girl from Cambodia has died from bird flu.
While bird flu typically affects poultry and wild birds, it can be transmitted to mammals, including humans.
Fears have been raised in recent weeks due to the “unprecedented” current outbreak, that has seen a wide range of mammals – including otters and foxes – infected since October last year.
The girl, from the rural province of Prey Veng, in south-eastern Cambodia became ill on 16 February, health officials have said.
She was diagnosed with the bug on Wednesday afternoon, after experiencing a fever of up to to 39C and coughing – she died shortly afterwards.
Health officials have taken samples from a dead bird at a conservation area near the girl’s home, the ministry said in another statement Thursday.
Local residents have been urged not to touch any dead and sick birds in the surrounding area.
A new report in the British Medical Journal found that 53 per cent of humans who have caught the H5N1 strain of avian influenza since 2003 have died from the disease.
Dr Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory, is now calling on Government’s to step up precautions.
He said: “We’re becoming used to outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, generally known as avian or bird flu, in UK poultry farms.
“We must not let familiarity mean we become content with this situation.
“The fact that it is now spreading to mammals across the globe shows we cannot let our guard down against the spread of this virus.”
Previously, world leading scientist at WHO, Sir Jeremy Farrar, who was previously director of the Wellcome Trust, has said the H5N1 avian virus posed the largest pandemic threat to the world after Covid.
“If there was an outbreak in Europe, the Middle East, America or Mexico tomorrow of H5N1 in humans, we wouldn’t be able to vaccinate the world within 2023,” said Sir Jeremy, chief scientist designate of the Word Health Organization at a press briefing in London last week.
There is currently no preventative vaccine for the virus.
He is now calling on Governments to begin investing in testing all available influenza vaccines against the H5N1 strain.
“If there were an H5N1 outbreak [in humans] we would at least know that we had vaccines available, which were safe and effective.
“And if it doesn’t happen, you haven’t lost, because you’ve still got those [vaccines],” he said.
Professor Diana Bell, an expert in zoonotic diseases from the University of East Anglia, echoed Sir Jeremy’s comments calling for research into a new jab.
“We need to be proactive and not caught on the back foot again,” she told UK Times.
“Most of the human deaths from this virus were in the early 2000s – and there have been a few cases in humans recently.
“But of course, with so much virus around, that could change very quickly,” she added.
Bird flu has only ever been found in one person in Britain, when Alan Gosling, 79, a retired engineer in Devon, caught it from ducks in his home in December 2021.
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 shivery
- aching muscles
- a cough or shortness of breath
Other early symptoms may include:
- stomach pain
- chest pain
- bleeding from the nose and gums
Source: The NHS