March 27, 2006

Three sick Cambodians test negative for bird flu

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Three Cambodians suffering from fever and coughs tested negative for bird flu after a 3-year-old girl died of the virus last week, the head of the hospital treating them said on Monday.

"All three tested for bird flu showed negative," said Heng Taykry, director of Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital, where the trio have been staying since being admitted with bird flu-like symptoms on Saturday.

A joint Cambodian-World Health Organization (WHO) statement said the adult and two children had come into contact with dead poultry in their village in Kampong Speu province, around 40 miles from Phnom Penh.

"The two children played with the dead poultry and the adult took the dead chickens to cook," said Ly Sovann, Cambodia's main bird flu surveillance official, before the test results came out.

He and WHO officials were not immediately available to confirm the test results.

Earlier on Monday, seven other Cambodians who had fallen sick last week in the same Kampong Speu village where the girl died all tested negative for H5N1.

The girl's death took the impoverished Southeast Asian nation's human toll to five since the virus first appeared in the region in late 2003.

According to WHO figures, 186 people worldwide are known to have been infected with H5N1 since 2003. Of those, 105 have died, including the Cambodian girl.