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Ebola risk relatively low: govt

A monitor displays thermal images of disembarking passengers as they give Ebola declaration forms to an official at Phnom Penh International Airport earlier this month
A monitor displays thermal images of disembarking passengers as they give Ebola declaration forms to an official at Phnom Penh International Airport earlier this month. Scott Howes

Ebola risk relatively low: govt

The risk of Ebola coming into Cambodia remains low despite a recent Ebola scare in Thailand, officials from the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Diseases Control said at a conference yesterday, while still noting that the Kingdom remains vulnerable to other, lesser-known diseases.

Thai media reported that a Sierra Leonean national suspected of having Ebola was found and sent home yesterday after he went missing in Thailand on November 16. The man, 31, did not end up having the disease.

CDC head Ly Sovann said that the chances of Ebola making it to Cambodia are still low.

“We have many [Ebola] suspects in Vietnam, in Myanmar, in Thailand, Singapore,” explained Sovann.

“But our ministry is closely monitoring these countries.”

Sovann said measures against Ebola remain unchanged since September, with an emphasis on thermal scanners and asking passengers to fill out questionnaires about their symptoms.

However, Cambodia remains at risk from other diseases.

“[Disease transfer] from animals to human beings is the biggest problem,” said the CDC’s Dr Pho Sothea.

Incidents of avian flu, or H7N9, reached their peak in 2013 at 26 cases and 14 deaths, Sovann said.

The disease is transferred through close contact with poultry, but there are no reported cases of humans transferring it between each other.

This year, nine cases were confirmed and four of them resulted in death, but Cambodia could see another wave since much of the country’s poultry “are not in farms, but in people’s backyards”, Sovann said.

Additionally, diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which originated in camels in that region in 2012, could reach Cambodian shores through tourists and pilgrims.

While Cambodia’s relative isolation from the Arab world makes it less susceptible to the disease, the CDC has taken steps to inform the country’s predominantly Muslim Cham minority.

“We’ve provided health education to Muslim people in provinces where the Muslim population is high, such as Kampong Chhnang, Kandal, and Phnom Penh,” said the CDC’s policy research coordinator Teng Srey.

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