Five-Year-Old Boy First Bird Flu Case of 2014

A 5-year-old boy from Kompong Thom province’s Santuk district has been confirmed as the first case of avian influenza this year, after 2013 saw the worst outbreak of the virus the country has ever seen, with 12 fatalities, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday.

“The first case this year, a 5-year-old boy from Chongda village, [Tbong Krapoeu] commune…was confirmed positive for H5N1 human avian influenza on 1st February 2014 by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge,” the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement.

The child first showed symptoms, which resemble a seasonal influenza, on January 24 and was initially treated at a private clinic until his condition worsened.

On Thursday, the boy was admitted to Jayavarman VII hospital, part of the Kantha Bopha children’s hospitals in Siem Reap, where he was treated with Tamiflu—the main drug against avian influenza in humans, Kantha Bopha deputy director Denis Laurent said.

“The child is still alive and at Jayavarman VII hospital. We hope he is recovering and we are working towards that,” Dr. Laurent said Tuesday.

Since the first cases of the deadly disease were discovered in Cambodia in 2005, a total of 48 people contracted the H5N1 virus, the majority of them children who were exposed to sick backyard poultry. Only 16 survived, according to the Ministry of Health.

In an advertisement for the Kantha Bopha Hospitals published in local media Tuesday, founder Beat Richner claims that the eight children who were cured of bird flu at his institutions last year were not cured because of Tamiflu—which works best if administered within the first 48 hours of the illness.

“In 2013 we could save 8 children suffering from Bird Flu. But not because of the drug ‘Tamiflu’ as it was told by WHO. The application of Tamiflu to severe cases is coming too late,” the advertisement states.

Although all survivors were treated with Tamiflu, Dr. Laurent said Tuesday that normal pneumonia treatment had, in fact, cured the patients.

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