Government officials met with their regional counterparts in Hanoi this week to discuss a vaccine that prevents the leading cause of severe diarrheal disease, and research has shown it could prevent nearly half of cases of the virus in poorer parts of Asia.
In August, British medical journal the Lancet published data from trials of the rotavirus vaccine in Vietnam and Bangladesh, considered to be representative of poorer parts of the region, that showed it prevented almost half of rotavirus cases. In Vietnam, vaccines reduced severe rotavirus diarrhea by 72.3 percent during the first year of life, when children are at greatest risk.
Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said that diarrhea was a serious problem in Cambodia, especially in terms of child mortality, and rotavirus was one of the main causes.
“It’s the same in most developing countries,” he said.
Mr Asgari said considerable research would have to be done before the rotavirus vaccine could be used in Cambodia.
“We need to find out the actual burden of rotavirus, identify funding for buying the vaccine, and come up with a plan of how to integrate the vaccine into the childhood immunization program,” he said.
This year saw a rash of acute watery diarrhea and cholera cases nationwide, but Ratanakkiri province was hit particularly hard, with 1,358 patients and 32 deaths recorded between April and July.
Andrew Martin, country manager for Health Unlimited, said his organization was awarded funding from the European Commission last week for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection to support it in combating AWD in Ratanakkiri.
“We’ll be working on everything connected with causes and treatment with the provincial departments of rural development and health,” he said.
Diarrheal disease kills more than 1.3 million children worldwide each year, according to PATH, an international non-profit health organization that hosted the Mekong Regional Workshop on Diarrheal Disease Control in partnership with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health.
Bota Chengli, a representative for PATH’s Cambodia office, wrote in an e-mail yesterday that Chhorn Veasna, Manager of National Cholera and Diarrheal Diseases at the Ministry of Health and Yi Seng Doeurn, Surveillance Officer of the Communicable Disease Control Department attended the workshop. Health officials could not be immediately reached.