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PM warns of child hepatitis

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People walk past the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital near Wat Phnom in the capital’s Daun Penh district in March of last year. Heng Chivoan

PM warns of child hepatitis

Following news reports regarding the detection of a new type of acute hepatitis of unknown origin among young children in many countries, the government has issued a cautionary warning and instructed the Ministry of Health to prepare a prevention campaign in advance.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a May 17 meeting with the Samdech Techo Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA) that a new type of hepatitis had been reported, although the disease has not yet arrived in Cambodia.

“We need to be prepared in advance because we do not know if we will soon see any other new forms of disease. The new type of hepatitis is another problem. Of course, it has not yet come to us, but one day it may appear here,” he said.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said on May 15 that since April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has received reports from 20 different countries which had all detected new cases of severe acute hepatitis involving children. The disease is not associated with the known common causes of hepatitis.

She confirmed that Cambodia has yet to detect any cases of the new hepatitis. However, the ministry has been pro-active and ready to respond to any new illnesses or disease. There is no clear treatment for the new variant, based on the symptoms, she noted.

“I call on everyone to be careful. Even though here in Cambodia we do not have any cases of this disease, we have to protect ourselves – and especially the children,” she said, adding that a clean hygienic life is the best protection against most forms of disease. Regular hand washing and careful food hygiene practices are factors that play a large part in preventing the spread of this new disease and many others, she added.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on May 11, since the first alert launched by the UK on April 5, probable cases of hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children have been reported from several countries. It was not immediately clear whether the cases identified following the alert were part of a true increase compared to the baseline rate of hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children.

“The total number of cases reported worldwide is approximately 450, and includes 11 deaths. Indonesia reported five deaths, Palestine recorded one, and the US reported an additional five,” said the ECDC.

The ECDC will continue to monitor this event through its epidemic intelligence activities.

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