A 10-year-old girl died in Svay Rieng province on Tuesday after contracting rabies from a cat bite in early December last year.
The girl’s family, from Khlaing village in Svay Teap district’s Chrak M’tes commune, did not admit her to hospital until her symptoms worsened, by which time it was too late.
Teav Bora, 35, the girl’s father, said on Thursday that his daughter, Teav Vuttey, a grade four student, died in front of him on Tuesday after her condition suddenly worsened.
They had sought medical treatment in Vietnam and at the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia but doctors told him the rabies virus had circulated into Vuttey’s brain, which is the last stage of the disease.
“On Tuesday morning, I and my wife took her to Vietnam but, when we arrived, doctors told us they could not help because in such a condition, only one in 10 could be cured. We were told to return home as soon as possible,” he said.
Hospital cannot help
When they arrived home at about 11am, they admitted her to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh. But Vuttey could not stand the cold air conditioned environment because of the rabies and they were told to return home because they could not help.
Vuttey, one of two daughters, was bitten by a cat at her aunt’s house in early December, but was not taken to a doctor, the family preferring traditional medicine. Bora and his wife had been unaware of the bite because they were busy working in a garment factory.
“I lost my lovely daughter, so I call on everyone to pay attention and to go to the doctor straight away when bitten by a cat or other animals. Don’t do like me. If it is rabies, it cannot be cured."
“I could only stand by and watch my daughter dying painfully and we could not help,” he said through tears.
Many videos of the girl have circulated on social media, causing shock and expressions of pity, especially when her symptoms worsened – Vuttey was clearly in pain, she would fall unconscious, and she acted strangely and could not control herself.
According to a World Health Organisation report, the rabies virus can be cured in 100 per cent of cases with a vaccination injection, but patients can die when they are not vaccinated. Every year, the disease kills 35,000 to 50,000 people around the world.
According to the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, each year 800 people die from rabies in the Kingdom, with 40 per cent of them being under 15. It said 600,000 people are bitten by dogs every year.
Ly Sowath, a doctor at the Pasteur Institute’s Epidemiology and Public Health Unit, said Vuttey died because it was too late to cure her.
He said people in rural areas are not well informed about the issue. Sometimes they are aware of it, he said, but they do not have any possibility to seek treatment or vaccinations.
“After being bitten, the most important thing is to clean the injury with alcohol or soap. This helps us a lot and prevents the virus from circulating into the brain. After that, bring the patient to get a rabies vaccine injection,” he said.
He advises everyone to receive treatment after a dog or cat bite.