- 11-year-old girl from Cambodia has died from H5N1 bird flu virus
- Her father tested positive for the virus
- 900 known cases of human infection with various strains of H5N1, of which about half were fatal
- Antiviral treatments such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) used as a treatment and preventative medicine
- WHO has asked manufacturers to make H5N1 vaccines
11-Year-Old Girl Dies from Bird Flu in Cambodia
An 11-year-old girl from Cambodia has died from a subtype of the bird flu virus called H5N1 in the rural Prey Veng province.
The girl developed flu-like symptoms on 16 February and after her condition deteriorated, she was sent to hospital, where she died.
Out of 12 of her close contacts who have been tested, only her father has so far been found to be positive for the virus.
It is believed that the virus could have been from her family’s small collection of ducks and chickens, as all the animals at her home – 22 chickens and three ducks – had recently died.
There have also been a number of fatalities among wild birds in the area.
Bird Flu Spreading to Domestic Poultry Flocks
Bird flu has been surging in wild bird populations and spreading to domestic poultry flocks and occasionally other animals, such as foxes and seals, which eat birds.
Over the past 20 years, there have been about 900 known cases of human infection with various strains of H5N1, of which about half were fatal.
Mass production of a bird flu vaccine cannot begin yet as it is not known which variant, if any, could make the jump to start freely spreading between people.
Manufacturers are about to start making the usual seasonal vaccines ahead of the northern hemisphere’s winter.
Antiviral Treatments for Seasonal Flu
There are several antiviral treatments for seasonal flu, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which has been used as a treatment as well as a preventative medicine among the close contacts of people known to have bird flu.
In a few cases, the H5N1 virus evolved resistance to oseltamivir, although this seemed to be linked with the virus also becoming less virulent and less transmissible.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked manufacturers to make H5N1 vaccines using a selection of the H5N1 viruses.
If human-to-human transmission were discovered, health authorities would try to prevent further crossover events from animals to people, as well as aiming to stop the virus’s spread between people.
This would be done by treating cases, isolating cases so that they don’t further transmit the virus and also identifying contacts.
The WHO would also try to prepare neighbouring areas for further spread using intense surveillance of viruses, informing communities about how to reduce their risk of infection and helping healthcare workers avoid infection with protective equipment.