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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Health ministry sees swine flu cases rise as rainy season starts

Health ministry sees swine flu cases rise as rainy season starts

AROUND 100 new cases of the A(H1N1) influenza virus, commonly known as swine flu, were diagnosed last month, according to figures from the Health Ministry’s Communicable Diseases Control Department.

Figures on the department’s website show that as of July 29, a total of 693 people had contracted the virus, up from 591 identified cases as of June 24.

The virus was first detected in the Kingdom in June last year.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the department, said yesterday that the rate of infection had been slow in the first five months of the year, and had begun increasing “significantly” in June.

He said 43 new cases had been identified in the week prior to July 29.

“We see the infection significantly increased,” he said.

Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the World Health Organisation, said cases of swine flu were increasing worldwide, and that it was not surprising that Cambodia had seen a recent spike.

“In Cambodia, the flu season starts when the rainy season starts, so usually from May or June, you see an increasing number of people with flu. You’re going to get more people with flu anyway,” he said.

“It’s not unusual to see a rise in the number of flu patients now or the number of patients who have swine flu.”

Asgari said the WHO had this year provided the Health Ministry with 1.5 million doses of swine flu vaccine, which had been distributed to at-risk populations including children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses.

He noted, though, that immunisation was expected to mitigate the severity of the illness, rather than preventing its contraction.

“The aim was not to stop people becoming sick, but to limit the disease,” he said. “We don’t expect that the vaccine itself will have that much of an impact on the overall number of cases.”

On June 29, the Health Ministry announced that Prime Minister Hun Sen and five other government officials had contracted swine flu. On July 15, around 2,000 government officials were vaccinated against the virus.

The virus has resulted in six fatalities, the most recent of which was an 18-month-old boy who died in December.



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