A 3-year-old boy from Prey Veng province’s Kompong Trabek district has contracted avian influenza, a deadly disease that has killed seven children and two men so far this year in the largest outbreak the country has seen, the Ministry of Health said in a statement Friday.
“The boy is in a stable condition at Kantha Bopha hospital,” after he was administered Tamiflu, the only anti-viral drug recommended to treat the H5N1 virus, said Sonny Krishnan, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia.
“We have sent our rapid response team [to Kompong Trabek] and they are currently doing contact tracing and they are testing all the close contacts of the boy and his immediate and extended family,” to make sure no one else has contracted the disease, he said.
The boy had been treated with cough medicine since the onset of symptoms last week, and was admitted to Kantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh on Monday after his condition worsened.
The diagnosis was the 14th case confirmed this year and the 35th case since the virus was first confirmed in Cambodia in 2005.
According to the WHO, the boy had been in close contact with sick poultry, which transmit the virus to humans, especially children.
“There was a large number of ducks and chicken dying in the area…and the boy was in the area where sick chicken were prepared for a meal,” Mr. Krishnan said.
In a report last month, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that if Cambodia’s health system was better equipped and if staff was more professional, fewer H5N1 patients would die.
Symptoms for the H5N1 virus are similar to normal influenza, dengue fever or typhoid, and are difficult to diagnose, Mr. Krishnan said, a problem that is compounded by late admission to hospitals.
“The Ministry of Health is addressing those concerns by training clinicians to better recognize the signs and symptoms,” he said, adding that if doctors or nurses would simply ask patients if they had had contact with sick or dead poultry, proper treatment could start sooner.
So far, the 14 cases this year were in Kompong Cham, Kampot, Takeo and Prey Veng provinces and in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, all in areas where people hold small stocks of chickens or ducks in their yard.
Health staff at provincial referral hospitals and health centers where the virus was confirmed have been receiving training to diagnose the disease since February.
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