A 29-year-old journalist has become the first Cambodian to die from swine flu since the pandemic of 2009-10, with doctors saying he had not sought medical attention quickly enough.
Khun No, a cameraman for the Cambodian Television Network, died from lung failure caused by the H1N1 virus at Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital at about 4am yesterday.
Dr Chhoeung Yav Yen, deputy chief of the hospital, said that No could have been saved by earlier intervention.
“This patient, he got sick at his home long before he came to hospital,” said Yav Yen. “When he got to the hospital, his condition was already severe.”
However, the patient’s brother-in-law, Keut Phin, said that No only started showing symptoms on February 7. He went to a small clinic on February 13, didn’t get better, and checked into the Khmer-Soviet hospital on February 15.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Ly Sovann said yesterday that there was no sign of a swine flu outbreak and the ministry would not be taking any extraordinary measures.
On Sunday, Sovann maintained that H1N1 was considered a “normal” seasonal flu strain that hit about 100 Cambodians per year.
He urged people with flu symptoms – fever, coughing, soreness of the throat and muscles, and fatigue – to seek medical attention if they didn’t start recovering by the third day of illness.
Sovann added that H1N1 had started showing signs of drug resistance in other countries, but that resistance had not yet been detected in Cambodia.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Vicky Houssiere yesterday said that while flu is seasonal, it can occur irregularly throughout the year in tropical regions.
“Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week, but influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk,” Houssiere said.
“The highest risk of complications occur among children younger than age two years, adults aged 65 years or older, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems.”
Phin said that No didn’t seem to have any problems with his immune system.
“He never got sick before [getting the swine flu],” he said.
Swine flu is mainly spread through tiny water droplets from coughing or sneezing, according to the Health Ministry. The 2009-10 swine flu pandemic saw close to 500 people infected in the Kingdom, with five deaths attributed to the illness.