BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
The Royal Government of Cambodia has been working hard in preparation for the expected appearance of Influenza A/H1N1. Cases have already been recorded in Thailand, according to Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, who was speaking to The Cambodia Weekly during a telephone interview on May 14.
To prepare, the Ministry of Health has recently prepared isolation rooms and other facilities at many principle hospitals in cities and provinces across the country said Bunheng. These include Calmette Hospital, Preah Kossamak Hospital, Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, Siem Reap Provincial Hospital, Kampot Provincial Hospital, Stung Treng Provincial Hospital and Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital. All have been equipped to ensure a speedy recovery for patients as and when they present themselves for treatment.
According to Bunheng, each hospital will set aside 5 to 20 beds to receive A/H1N1 influenza patients, should it arrive on these shores. In addition, thermal scanners have been installed by the Ministry at airports including Phnom Penh International and Siem Reap Airports. Other checkpoints include Poi Pet, Koh Kong and Bavet Checkpoints located in Svay Rieng Province. The thermal scanners will be able to detect travelers with abnormally high temperatures – fever being a classic symptom of the disease.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia has been prepared to deal with the possible appearance of A/H1N1 virus since confirmation of the first influenza A/H1N1 case in Mexico,” Bunheng said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the relevant government ministries and departments to remain on full alert during the crisis.
The Minister said his ministry has deployed its medical experts and officers to tighten supervision at all checkpoints with neighboring countries, Thailand, Lao and Vietnam. He said the ministry also prepared protective medical clothing, special-purpose vehicles, medicines and other related materials for all public hospitals and health centers across the countries.
Dr. Sok Touch, Director of the Anti-Communicable Disease Department in Ministry of Health, said that to date there are no reports of cases in Cambodia but it has recently been confirmed in Thailand.
According to the World Health Organization, two Thai people were affected recently with the A/H1N1 virus. They suspect it is only a matter of time before the virus is detected in Cambodia.
“As the A/H1N1 virus is spread from person to person via coughs and sneezes, we remain worried and on high alert,” Dr. Touch said. “We hope that with our preparations and past experience in combating bird flu, we will able to make meaningful defenses against A/H1N1 influenza in Cambodia,” he told the Cambodia Weekly.
Dr. Touch continued to say that to prevent the appearance of A/H1N1in Cambodia, the Ministry of Health is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the National Committee for Disaster Management, the World Health Organization, and other UN agencies. They have used equipment already in place following the nation’s measures to tackle bird flu.
The Ministry has prepared a total of 157, 500 doses of medication amongst other things and these have been distributed to the nation’s major hospitals and health centers. He added that the World Health Organization has also donated a total of 154, 000 doses of medicine to help combat H1N1.
He went on to describe the symptoms of H1N1. These include a fever running at around 38 degrees, along with a cough noted for its unusual guttural hack, a sore throat, shortness of breath, headache, sneezing and diarrhea.
According to a World Health Organization report, so far 32 countries have reported 5,251 cases of influenza A/H1N1. 61 of these cases have proved fatal.
“I appeal to all who have recently returned from affected countries in the last seven days who have developed symptoms as described previously to contact the nearest hospital or clinic for treatment in Cambodia,” Dr. Touch said. “We are well able to deal with the disease and I do not recommend travel to foreign countries for treatment. Indeed, if their protections against influenza are as effective as ours, you will not get in to the country”.
He added that medical personnel and the public are being asked to report to the Ministry of Health hotlines at the following numbers: 012 488 981 and 089 669 556 or report the case to the nearest health facilities. ////