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Bird Flu in Laotians and Cambodians
November 23, 2004
>>nearly 100 Laotians and Cambodians have visited Ubon Ratchathani every day asking for medicines. Medical staff, at hospitals in the Khemarat, Khong Chiam and Nam Yuen districts, have treated these patients free of charge<<
A steady flow of Laotians and Cambodians into Thailand seeking treatment for flu symptoms raises several questions. Although bird flu is not mentioned in the article, last season Laos and Cambodia had laboratory confirmed H5N1 in birds. Moreover, the hospitals mentioned above are on the eastern border of Thailand, but they are also only about 100 miles from the western border of Vietnam. Thus, the Laotians and Cambodians seeking treatment are sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, the two countries that have reported fatal cases of bird flu in patients, both last season and in recent months.
Since these patients are crossing the border for treatment, it would seem that their flu has progressed beyond the "take two aspirin, get some rest, and call me in the morning" stage. If they have human flu, then their travel potentially exposed them to avian flu. If they have avian flu, then their travel exposes others to avian flu.
Last season there was considerable concern about H5N1 infections in Laos and Cambodia because these are poor countries with sub-standard medical care and laboratory detection methods. The patients in eastern Thailand would seem to offer a window into possible human cases of avian flu, but the article below does not address the level of avian flu testing in these patients.