An 11-year-old lady in Cambodia has died in hospital after catching chicken flu. Her father has examined optimistic for the virus accountable, however it’s unclear whether or not he caught the an infection from her or the household’s poultry assortment

Geese at a market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 24 February TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP through Getty Photographs

A lady has died from chicken flu in Cambodia after probably catching it from her household’s small flock of chickens and geese. No less than one in all her shut contacts has additionally examined optimistic, however authorities are nonetheless ready on the outcomes of testing her wider circle.

How many individuals have died from chicken flu within the newest cluster of circumstances?

An 11-year-old lady from Cambodia has died from a subtype of the chicken flu virus known as H5N1 within the rural Prey Veng province, a area near the capital Phnom Penh. She developed flu-like signs on 16 February and after her situation deteriorated, she was despatched to hospital, the place she died. Out of 12 of her shut contacts who’ve been examined, solely her father has to date been discovered to be optimistic for the virus.

How did she catch it?

It may have been from her household’s small assortment of geese and chickens, as all of the animals at her residence – 22 chickens and three geese – had just lately died, in response to BNO Information, however the reason for their deaths is unknown. There have additionally been quite a lot of fatalities amongst wild birds within the space.


Is chicken flu now spreading between individuals?

Even when extra of the lady’s 12 contacts take a look at optimistic, this doesn’t imply the virus has advanced to unfold simply between individuals. Her father and some other circumstances may have caught the virus instantly from contaminated birds, says Wendy Barclay at Imperial School London. “If she’s had contact with yard poultry, there’s an opportunity that associates she performed with have additionally had contact [with the birds],” she says.

Ought to we count on extra circumstances?

Since 2021, chicken flu has been surging in wild chicken populations and spreading to home poultry flocks and infrequently different animals, similar to foxes and seals, which eat birds. That raises the probability of the virus crossing over to individuals, says James Wooden on the College of Cambridge. “We count on there to be some circumstances of [human] illness with such a widespread an infection,” Wooden stated in a press release to the Science Media Centre within the UK.

How lethal is chicken flu in individuals?

Over the previous 20 years, there have been about 900 recognized circumstances of human an infection with numerous strains of H5N1, of which about half have been deadly. However the loss of life price might seem increased than it truly is as a result of there are more likely to be many circumstances the place individuals didn’t develop signs or weren’t examined for the virus, says Barclay. There’s now regarded as about 30 completely different genetic variants of H5N1 viruses circulating in birds, which most likely differ of their capacity to make individuals sick.

Has vaccine manufacturing begun?

Mass manufacturing of a chicken flu vaccine can’t start as a result of we don’t but know which variant, if any, may make the bounce to begin freely spreading between individuals. The effectiveness of flu vaccines hinges on making them from viruses which might be as shut a match as doable to the one that folks ultimately catch.

Producers are about to begin making the standard seasonal vaccines forward of the northern hemisphere’s winter. In the event that they have been to change to creating H5N1 vaccines prematurely, that will danger not sufficient seasonal flu vaccines being accessible later this yr. “Seasonal vaccine is essential in saving lives,” Sylvie Briand on the World Well being Group (WHO) stated at a press convention this week. “It’s essential to steadiness the dangers and advantages while you discuss switching vaccines.”

However producers routinely perform preparatory work utilizing “candidate vaccine viruses” and the WHO has requested them to do that utilizing a collection of the H5N1 viruses, the organisation introduced this week.

Are there any remedies?

There are a number of antiviral remedies for seasonal flu, similar to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which has been used as a therapy in addition to a preventative medication among the many shut contacts of individuals recognized to have chicken flu.

In just a few circumstances, the H5N1 virus advanced resistance to oseltamivir, though this gave the impression to be linked with the virus additionally changing into much less virulent and fewer transmissible. On the press convention, the WHO stated it has been in talks with producers of antivirals about how shortly they may scale up manufacturing.

What occurs if chicken flu does begin spreading between individuals?

Briand has stated that if human-to-human transmission have been found, well being authorities would attempt to stop additional crossover occasions from animals to individuals, in addition to aiming to cease the virus’s unfold between individuals. This might be “by treating circumstances, isolating circumstances in order that they don’t additional transmit the virus and in addition figuring out contacts”, she stated. “We are able to use antivirals to deal with contacts for post-exposure prophylaxis and cut back the probability of additional human transmission.”

The WHO would additionally attempt to put together neighbouring areas for additional unfold utilizing intense surveillance of viruses, informing communities about cut back their danger of an infection and serving to healthcare staff keep away from an infection with protecting tools.