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Mysterious disease that put 168 in hospital identified as chikungunya

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A ministry press release said residents experienced fever with temperatures of 38 Celsius, red skin rashes and joint pain. Photo supplied

Mysterious disease that put 168 in hospital identified as chikungunya

The Ministry of Health has announced an outbreak of the chikungunya virus in Poipet and Phsar Kandal communes in Banteay Meanchey province and warned residents to be vigilant against the spread of the disease caused by the virus.

Meanwhile, health officials in other provinces launched a campaign to spray mosquito repellent on residents’ homes and put the anti-dengue larvicide Abate in large water basins which are commonly found outside houses.

A ministry press release issued on Thursday said from July 19 to July 22, residents of Poipet commune’s Kbal Koh, Poipet and O’Chrov villages, and those from Phsar Kandal commune’s Prey Kub, O’Neang and O’Russey villages experienced fever with temperatures of 38 Celsius, red skin rashes and joint pain.

Experts investigated the six villages because 168 people had checked into hospitals to be treated. Of the number, the ministry said 32 people needed extra care, but their condition had improved.

The ministry said a working group collected 22 blood samples to test for the chikungunya virus, 60 samples to test for the measles-rubella virus and 22 more to test for Covid-19.

It said the samples were sent to Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and preliminary results revealed cases of chikungunya.

The ministry said the re-emergence of the virus in the province could signal another public health risk. It said the virus could spread quickly because the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which carry it can be found everywhere.

Minister Mam Bun Heng was quoted in the release as saying that it was of the utmost importance to prevent Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from thriving.

He said water containers are habitats for mosquitoes and should be discarded. He urged the people to participate in carrying out preventive measures as advised by the ministry and local authorities to ensure they stayed healthy.

“I encourage local-level leadership and community members to get rid of Aedes aegypti mosquito habitats and sleep behind mosquito nets. When feeling ill, please go to the nearest health centres or referral hospitals,” he said.

Provincial Department of Health director Le Chan Sangvat told The Post on Thursday that after the outbreak of chikungunya in the villages, emergency response teams of the provincial hospital sprayed disinfectant in target villages in Poipet town.

Sangvat called on residents in the entire province to be vigilant against an outbreak of chikungunya and practice preventive measures like removing mosquito habitats, sanitising homes and sleeping under mosquito nets.

“Please provide information to health support groups in villages, village chiefs and local authorities about disease problems. Hopefully, the provincial Health Department, the districts, the health centres and hospitals can intervene to help [patients] soon,” he said.

Preah Vihear provincial Department of Health director Kuong Lo said disinfectants were sprayed around residents’ houses in three villages bordering the Lao border in Kampong Sralao II commune in Chheb district after many patients were believed to have developed chikungunya.

He said provincial medical officials had put three tonnes of Abate in residents’ water basins to kill mosquito larvae.

The ministry said chikungunya is not life-threatening in itself. It causes pain in the joints of patients which can heal within a week. But if a patient catches the virus while he or she has other diseases, it can be life-threatening.

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