Gov’t Requests $130,000 to Fight Bird Flu

The Health Ministry asked po­tential donors Friday for more than $130,000 to fund surveillance activities, communication and protective equipment in case of an outbreak of avian in­fluenza in humans, officials said Monday.

The ministry also awaits word from the World Health Or­ganiza­tion on whether a Cambo­dian wo­man who died in Vietnam on Thursday had bird flu, Mini­ster of Health Hong Sun Huot said Mon­day. No human cases of bird flu have been confirmed in Cambo­dia, he said.

While the ministry plans, if necessary, to use equipment purchased for last year’s severe acute respiratory syndrome threat, “we need more for bird flu,” Sok Touch, director of the ministry’s Communicable Disease Depart­ment, said Monday. “I think, even though we have no cases of hu­man bird flu, I think, based on the problem in the region, that we must be very cautious,” he said.

Potential donors have yet to commit, but Sok Touch said he expects to have responses this week. If there was an outbreak of bird flu in the provinces, patients would likely be transported to better-equipped hospitals in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap province, said Dr Jean-Bap­tist Dufourcq of Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospi­tal.

“Fortunately—or unfortunately—we have the equipment from SARS,” Dufourcq said. He said that the hospital had a “huge amount” of respirators and protective gear acquired last year.

“No, no, no,” Sok Touch said when asked if provincial health centers were prepared to treat bird flu patients. “They need to refer [them] to the higher levels.”

Jon Morgan, executive director of Siem Reap’s Angkor Hospital for Children said the hospital would transport patients elsewhere if there were assurances of better care. “Officially, [the plan] is to take care of as many kids as possible,” he said. “I hope that bird flu is just an economic im­pact on the agriculture sector and not [on] public health.”

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