Two linked clinical cases of avian influenza in Cambodia: what threat to public health in southeast Asia does this pose?

Document Type : Editorials


1 VinUniversity, College of Health Sciences, Gia Lam District, Hanoi 100000 Vietnam

2 College of Health Sciences, VinUniversity, Gia Lam District, Hanoi, Vietnam Center for Global Health, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA



• There is much uncertainty in predicting the next major incidence of influenza A
• The source of recent clinical cases of A/H5N1 in Cambodia are unknown
• A/H5N1 is highly virulent in farmed poultry and can crossover to infect humans
• Human-to-human transmission would pose a significant public health threat
• Regional pandemic preparedness in Southeast Asia is required to mitigate this risk

Conclusion: Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (HPAI H5N1), more commonly known as bird flu – is, as the name suggests – primarily a disease that affects birds, yet it can also infect mammals, including humans. HPAI is a persistent public health threat as a leading cause of severe respiratory disease. While the source of infection of the A/H5N1 isolate that caused the death of a child in Cambodia may never be determined unequivocally, this emergency event should sound a warning of what may be to come. With the virtue of hindsight, in all but a handful of countries the real time surveillance and early detection system in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for control of community transmission was grossly inadequate and need of major overhaul. Striking a positive note, those hard-learnt lessons are now helping to ensure better outbreak preparedness and threat mitigation for a virulent strain of bird flu should it spread to, and between, humans.


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