Six-Year-Old Girl Among Few to Survive Bird Flu Infection

A 6-year-old girl from Battambang province, the 22nd person this year to contract avian influenza, is one of only half to have survived what has been the worst-ever outbreak of the virus in Cambodia.

The child is on her way to full recovery after spending two weeks in Jayavarman VII Hospital in Siem Reap province where she received Tamiflu, an anti-viral treatment for bird flu in humans that works best if delivered speedily, officials said Sunday.

“This is the 22nd case. The girl has been sent home,” Sonny Krish­nan, communications officer with the World Health Organization (WHO), said. “She is out of danger.”

Cambodia is the country in the region with the highest number of bird flu cases this year, with 11 fatalities out of 22 cases, Mr. Krishnan said.

The majority of H5N1 cases have been children.

The girl developed a high fever on October 14, prompting her family to take her to the local hospital before she was transferred to Jayavarman VII Hospital in Siem Reap province on October 19, according to the WHO and the Ministry of Health.

After laboratory tests confirmed that she had contracted avian influenza, Tamiflu was administered on October 24 and doctors said her condition was stable enough to return home on Saturday.

Denis Laurent, deputy director of the Siem Reap hospital and the other Kantha Bopha hospitals, said the chances of an H5N1-infected child’s survival depend greatly on how quickly they are brought into the hospital and diagnosed.

He added that it is likely the contraction of avian influenza in Cambodia is much higher than what is reported, especially since his hospitals deal primarily with children.

“I’m sure it’s not only children, but we are the only hospital meeting the job and trying to solve the problem,” Dr. Laurent said.

Hong Chandet, the Ruomduol deputy village chief and father of the 6-year-old survivor, said days before his daughter contracted the disease, their district experienced severe flooding and many poultry and ducks died.

“Many birds had died during the flooding and my daughter was playing around the bird cages. A day later, she got a very bad fever,” Mr. Chandet said.

The WHO’s Mr. Krishnan said there were several factors behind the spate of cases, which have been recorded in provinces around the country, including the transportation of infected poultry.

“Now in Cambodia, roads are better, and poultry gets moved from one place to another, so sick poultry gets transported over vast distances, so that’s how the disease spreads,” he said.

“People are still preparing meals from sick or dead chickens.”

© 2013, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.