In response to the deadly outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea and a recent confirmed case in neighbouring Thailand, officials said yesterday that they are issuing updated health declaration forms and tightening health checks at Cambodian border checkpoints.
The virus, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and typically leads to symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath, has spread to South Korea where it has killed 25 people, according to AFP. On Friday, the WHO confirmed in a statement that they detected the first reported MERS case in Thailand in a male traveller from Oman.
Given Cambodia’s close proximity to Thailand and South Korea, Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Department Deputy Director Dr Bun Sreng said that they are taking the matter “very seriously”.
“Cambodians are at risk because there are many entry points from Thailand to Cambodia and we have direct flights from South Korea to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap,” Sreng said.
According to Sreng, new health declaration forms, filled upon entry to the Kingdom, will be released in the coming weeks with a question on whether travellers have visited South Korea in the last 21 days.
The Health Ministry is also acquiring four more thermoscanners, which detect whether individuals have a fever upon entering the country. Currently, Cambodia has one working thermoscanner in Siem Reap airport, while temperature checks are done manually in the Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville airports and Poipet and Bavet land crossings, Sreng said.
The ministry has trained health professionals on infection prevention response since 2012, but, Sreng added, additional training will be conducted in public hospitals like Calmette Hospital next week.
“They are getting prepared and that’s clear,” said WHO Cambodia communications officer Vicky Houssiere. “The CDC has been working more vigilantly with air force authority and instructing quarantine officers and rapid response teams to be ready.”
Cambodia has yet to meet the WHO-set regulations for preparedness and response to new emerging diseases, but with limited resources, Sreng said, they’re “doing the best [they] can”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA