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Larvae of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus, at a laboratory at the El Salvador Ministry of Health earlier this month. AFP
Larvae of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus, at a laboratory at the El Salvador Ministry of Health earlier this month. AFP

Ministry urges calm over Zika virus

Health Ministry officials yesterday sought to reassure the public that the risk of people becoming infected with the Zika virus in Cambodia is low.

The statements were made during a media briefing organised to inform the press about the country’s Zika situation in order “to avoid any confusion”, said Dr Ly Sovann, director of the Department of Communicable Disease Control and ministry spokesman.

Brazil has been ground zero for the mosquito-borne Zika virus, where an estimated 1.5 million people may have been affected.

An increase of birth defects has also been seen in areas hit by Zika, but there’s still no clear evidence that the virus is causing the microcephaly and other neurological issues.

Since 2010, Cambodia has only had one confirmed case, Sovann said. “Travel from the [affected] areas . . . is minimal,” he added.

Last month, officials at the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control confirmed a Zika case in the country by a man travelling from Thailand.

Officials in Taiwan also raised the travel notice level for South America and six countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, saying Cambodia was “at risk of transmission”.

Officials at US Embassy’s Centers for Disease Control office and the WHO could not be reached for comment.

No vaccines exist for Zika, which was first detected in people in 1953, said Deng Srey, deputy director of the communicable disease department – who nonetheless urged people not to panic.

“Zika disease is not a serious disease,” Srey said, adding that it often “cures itself”.

Srey went on to recommend getting rid of areas where mosquitos may breed and taking steps to avoid being bitten.

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