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Avian Influenza in Human Contacts of Poultry in Cambodia-WHO Concern

12/05/2023

Authorities in Cambodia are investigating two cases of avian influenza in human contacts of backyard poultry in Kampot Province. A 21-year-old woman who handled dead chickens developed clinical symptoms on November 19th and died on November 26th.  A four-year-old girl also with known contact with infected chickens was diagnosed with the infection on November 25th and was subsequently released from hospital after treatment.  No further cases were diagnosed in either of the villages that were home to the two patients.  Four previous cases of avian influenza in humans were diagnosed in Kampot Province in 2023.

While sporadic cases restricted to individuals with presumed susceptibility are not an immediate cause of concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) Endemic Influenza Preparedness Framework is developing policy and plans in advance of a possible extension of infection from domestic poultry to human populations.  Numerous reports of infection in free-living terrestrial and marine mammals confirm that H5N1 virus can mutate to infect a wide range of species.  Obvious animal-to-animal transmission must have occurred among seals and sealions along the Pacific coast of South America and on a farm housing mink in Spain.

The World Health Organization noted, “As is often stated an influenza pandemic is not a matter of “if” but rather “when”.  The Agency is applying lessons learned during the COVID pandemic to prepare for a possible influenza event over the period 2024 through 2030 in the High-level Implementation Plan III.  This will strengthen pandemic influenza preparations by building capacities in the areas of:

 

  • Policy and plans in the event of emergence of a pandemic

 

  • Collaborative global influenza surveillance and response

 

  • Community protection

 

  • Access to control measures