Nine-Year-Old Boy Becomes 10th Bird Flu Victim This Year

A 9-year-old boy from Battambang province’s Sangke district became the 10th person to die from bird flu late on Sunday, in the worst outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus Cambodia has ever seen.

So far this year there have been 16 reported cases, out of which six survived, double the number of cases during the second-worst outbreak of the disease in 2011 when eight cases were recorded, all of whom died.

“He passed away late [Sun­day] night in the Jayavarman VII hospital in Siem Reap,” Sonny Krishnan, spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia, said Monday.

The boy had developed a fever and vomiting more than three weeks ago, Mr. Krishnan said, and was initially treated with medicine at a small health center in the district. Tamiflu, the only antiviral drug recommended to treat the H5N1 virus in humans, was not administered to the boy until August 9. Generally, Tamiflu should be administered within two days of the onset of symptoms to ensure recovery.

Despite the high number of cases this year, the number of survivors is also unusually high.

“We are seeing a trend right now that there are more survivors, and we are looking more into that,” Mr. Krishnan said, adding that most people now knew of the disease and were more prone to seek medical treatment early on.

“[The WHO] just finished focus group discussion in Kampot and saw that there is high awareness, in particular because there were five cases in Kampot this year,” he said.

But in Battambang province, where there have not been any cases of bird flu this year until now, awareness is much lower, Mr. Krishnan said.

“We are planning an intervention on National Radio Kampuchea because we are also getting ready for a movement of poultry for Pchum Ben” in October, he said—during which time the disease is more likely to spread from one population of chicken or ducks to another.

Nou Ny, the 46-year-old father of the most recent victim, said that he had heard about avian influenza before, but had still consumed a sick chicken—the most common way the disease is transmitted.

“We don’t have money so we didn’t want to waste the dead chicken,” which his late son had helped prepare, Mr. Ny said.

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