The Ministry of Health yesterday warned people to be aware of the new avian influenza strain H7N9, which has spread to poultry in China and neighbouring countries.
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann said that in past two years, Cambodia has not had any cases of avian influenza H5N1 infecting people, despite it spreading to poultry in Svay Rieng province early this year.
However, he said officials are concerned about the new avian flu H7N9, which has been spreading in China, Vietnam and Laos.
Mr Sovann, also the chief of the ministry’s Communicable Disease Control department, appealed to the public and authorities yesterday to be more cautious, and diligently report any cases of sick or dead poultry.
“H7N9 is a subtype that we may not be able to contain,” he said. “We can contain H5N1 so far, but H7N9 is difficult. For H5N1, if it infects poultry, we see the poultry die immediately, so we can contain it from spreading. But when H7N9 infects poultry, they are sick but don’t die and can pass it on to humans.”
“It is very difficult so we are concerned,” he added.
According to Mr Sovann, Cambodia has not identified any cases of H7N9 thus far.
Teng Srey, deputy director of the Communicable Disease Control department, said if a person was to contract H7N9, they would experience the same symptoms of H5N1, including a fever, cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
Dr Srey appealed to people to be vigilant and maintain good hygiene in their households, especially when dealing with poultry. She added that people should not eat sick or dead poultry because it can lead to them contracting the virus.
“It is likely to happen because this virus is still circulating on poultry,” she said. “H7N9 has infected poultry in Laos as well as in Vietnam. Although it has not been transmitted to humans yet, we must remain vigilant in Cambodia because we import meat from Vietnam.”
As of June 15, a total of 1,533 H7N9 cases were reported worldwide, including 592 people who died from the virus, a Health Ministry report said.