Six-Year-Old in Critical Condition Is 10th Bird Flu Case This Year

A 6-year-old boy from Kampot City’s Troeuy Koh commune has become the 10th person to contract bird flu this year and remained in a very serious condition at Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha hospital Wednesday night, said the hospital’s deputy director, Denis Laurent.

“[The 6-year-old boy] is still alive at Kantha Bopha in Phnom Penh, but he is in a critical condition,” Dr. Laurent said Wednesday evening, adding that the boy had severe breathing problems but was being treated with Tamiflu, currently the only anti-viral medicine recommended to treat the H5N1 virus.

“We have to wait and see if his condition improves or not,” Dr. Laurent said.

So far in 2013, eight people have died from avian influenza, also known as H5N1, which is transmitted by poultry and has similar symptoms to seasonal flu. An 8-month-old boy from Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune, the first case this year, has been the only person to survive so far.

The 6-year-old boy first exhibited symptoms around March 20, but was only admitted to the provincial hospital over the weekend before being transferred to Kantha Bopha on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Institut Pasteur du Cam­bodge confirmed that he had the virus.

Though the boy is being treated with Tamiflu, experts say that the medicine is only effective if it is administered within two days of the onset of symptoms.

Heng Chantha, chief of the provincial health department’s rapid response team, said the boy had not been in contact with poultry.

“The [family] did not suspect H5N1 since there are no chickens at the house and no one touched or ate chicken,” Mr. Chantha said.

A total of 15 blood samples from the boy’s relatives and staff from the provincial hospital were sent to the Institut Pasteur on Wednesday to test if there was a transmission from human to human, which would be the result of a mutation in the virus.

This year has seen the worst outbreak of bird flu since it was first identified in Cambodia in 2005.

Sonny Krishnan, communications officer for the World Health Organization, said no human links were found in the nine cases that occurred in January and February.

“There is no indication of an epidemiological link, so they are separate cases and the linkage was with poultry,” he said.

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