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China to lend hand in battle with killer virus

China to lend hand in battle with killer virus

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Child receives treatment at Kuntha Bopha children's hospital in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

China yesterday pledged to provide medical experts and funding to assist the investigation and clinical management of a virus that has killed more than 60 Cambodian children.

Eang Sophalleth, personal spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters the pledge had been made during a meeting between the premier and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday in Phnom Penh.

“There is a mysterious disease that is responsible for killing more than 60 Cambodian children. So China would like to provide experts and funding to assist Cambodia in finding the cause of the disease,” Sophalleth quoted Yang as saying to Hun Sen.

Cambodia’s largest children’s hospital, Kantha Bopha, has reported that 64 children have died from the virus since April.

Tests being conducted by Kantha Bopha and the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation have recently identified the disease as enterovirus 71 – a virus associated with hand, foot and mouth disease that can cause severe complications for children.

WHO epidemiologist Dr Nima Asgari said the details of the co-operation with incoming Chinese experts was a matter for the Ministry of Health, but welcomed the additional assistance.

“What I can say is that China does have a lot of experience with clinical management of this virus,” Asgari said.

China has experienced several outbreaks of EV-71, including severe outbreaks in 2008 and 2009 that claimed hundred of lives, according to media reports of the events. During the 2008 outbreaks, the US embassy in Beijing reported that “all the deaths were children less than six years old, and most were under two years of age”.

The commitment of expert assistance and funding was part of Yang’s promise from China to continue providing loans and aid to Cambodia as well as pushing for business and investment and tourists to the Kingdom.

According to Sophalleth, Hun Sen thanked China for its continuing support for Cambodia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheang Sokha at [email protected]

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