A patient who has been confirmed to have swine flu is receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, though hospital and Health Ministry officials yesterday downplayed the significance of the case.
A 2009 swine flu pandemic saw close to 500 people infected in the Kingdom, with five succumbing to the illness.
However, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Ly Sovann and the deputy chief of Khmer-Soviet, Chhoeung Yav Yin, yesterday maintained that swine flu, also known as H1N1, was not a serious concern to those under the age of 5 or over the age of 60.
Sovann, also the director of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, maintained yesterday that H1N1 was just a “normal” flu strain, and said the recent patient had contracted the disease but didn’t get proper treatment until he began experiencing lung problems. The doctors at the hospital tested the patient’s saliva, which confirmed he had H1N1.
But a hospital nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, maintained yesterday that patient Yon No “was not stable”, despite being only 30 years old.
“Sometimes the patient gets worse, and sometimes he gets better,” the nurse said. “Now, we still put him on oxygen to help him breathe.”
H1N1 is included in the roster of seasonal influenza viruses currently circulating in all parts of the world, said Vicky Houssiere, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization.
“Most people recover from seasonal influenza within a week, but it can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk,” she said.
The most effective way to prevent the disease or severe outcomes from swine flu is vaccination, Houssiere said.
“Vaccination is important for people at higher risk of complications,” she added.
However, the National Immunization Program hasn’t included the swine flu vaccine into the routine immunisation program yet, according to Dr Chham Samnang, a technical officer with the Expanded Programme on Immunization at WHO.
Ker Thim, the patient’s brother, said No became ill on February 13 at his home in Phnom Penh. He went to a private clinic to get treatment but his condition did not improve, and on February 15 he went to the hospital.
He added that his brother was getting better yesterday. To prevent transmission, people should wash their hands regularly and cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing, Houssiere said.