As world leaders vowed to dramatically step up the global response to the Ebola virus this week, the Cambodian government sought to reassure investors that they are making adequate preparations to contain an outbreak in the Kingdom.
Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, Dr Ly Sovann, chief of the Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said the ministry was implementing numerous initiatives, including health inspections at airports and dedicated response teams.
Test case definitions to help identify symptoms have also been distributed to private clinics and hospitals, Sovann said, while airport authorities, who are now using thermo-detection to screen for fevers, have been instructed to isolate any suspected cases.
Local laboratories are also being trained to test for Ebola, while the World Health Organization would assist with confirmation, Sovann said.
“For our response, we can’t wait for confirmation. We need to respond even if there is a suspected case,” he said, adding that five hospitals in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and Kampot had been designated as places where patients could be isolated.
“We have a small number of testing kits but we need more procured.”
But Sovann – reflecting on Cambodia’s woeful preparation during the SARS pandemic more than a decade ago – admitted that significant challenges remain, especially in terms of funding and equipment. “We need to do more, to work more, and need assistance from the UN. If every country prepares together, we can contain it,” he said.
Dr Tharanga Diyunugala, of Christian emergency relief organisation Samaritan’s Purse, said that hygiene issues would be crucial.
“The most important point out of all this is prevention with hygiene and sanitation, which is very poor in this country even though there have been some significant [improvements],” he said.
As of last Sunday, there have been 4493 deaths globally from Ebola out of 8997 likely cases.
The WHO has warned that in a worse-case scenario, 10,000 people could be newly infected a week by early December.