Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Cambodian warning

There is a somewhat ominous report that Cambodia's minister of health has said seven relatives of the recently deceased 25 year old Cambodian woman who made her way across the border to Vietnam were being tested for H5N1 infection and several had high fevers and respiratory problems. The woman's 14 year old brother had died in mid-January with similar symptoms.

Cambodia has not officially announced the presence of the virus on its territory despite media reports that chickens and ducks have been dying there. Henry Niman at Recombinomics has deplored the lack of attention and possibly the honesty of Cambodian authorities and the too deliberate and insufficiently urgent actions of the Vietnamese:
Relatives that develop symptoms a week or two apart are unlikely to have developed infections from a common source. The second infection is most likely human to human transmission from the first infection.

The failure to test these likely bird flu patients remains scandalous. In November there were reports of patients with flu-like symptoms crossing the Thai border from Laos and Cambodia for treatment and more recently of Cambodians crossing the Vietnamese border seeking treatment in Ha Tien. Rather than test the patients, officials were waiting for H5N1 confirmation in the patient described above.

They need not wait any longer. Testing of patients and contacts for H5N1 avian influenza transmission in Cambodia and border towns is long overdue.
We agree. Scandalous. And dangerous. We may be losing precious time.