Prime Minister Hun Sen advised people on Monday not to be irrationally afraid of rabies to the extent of flocking to get vaccinated against the disease, and rendering institutions unable to provide timely services.
The prime minister’s call came during the 7th National Clean City Day held at Sokha Hotel on Monday.
He said: “[I would like to] advise citizens throughout the country not to be afraid [of rabies] to the point of going to the Pasteur Institute or other places, which are now overcrowded with people getting vaccines which they don’t really need.”
He said many of those seeking vaccines had not been bitten by animals and went to health institutions without symptoms of the disease, despite Ministry of Health announcements not to do so.
“What is important is that people, who were not bitten by dogs or cats, flocked to vaccination facilities and led to overcrowding, going as far as insulting each other at the Pasteur Institute and criticising the Ministry of Health too."
“I’ll say this, like what the Ministry of Health addressed – the best preventive measure against rabies is to avoid being bitten by rabid dogs or animals, and that is that."
“Don’t play with a dog which is rabid. Speaking of which, sometimes in rural areas, dogs protect their puppies and go out to bite [people], which then they have to [get vaccinated] in a hurry,” he said.
Besides addressing the people, the prime minister also instructed the Ministry of Health to deploy rabies vaccine services for hospitals that are able to provide it, provide access to private clinics to help provide the service, and offer high-quality consultations to avoid people from being frightened of such cases as the 10-year-old girl in Svay Rieng province who recently fell victim and died.
According to Dr Ly Sowath, a doctor at the Pasteur Institute’s Epidemiology and Public Health Unit, on Monday alone it saw between 500 and 600 people flocking to get vaccinated against rabies after hearing news of the case.
The girl died on February 12 after being scratched by a cat in December last year.
Sowath said as many people still flock to receive vaccines, “I am making preparations for tomorrow [Tuesday] as we have arranged a bigger place to receive them as hundreds of people are coming and filling up the place”.
Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann said it had just expanded vaccination services in Battambang province and is set to expand further.
According to a ministry letter dated February 23, it renewed its advice for those at high risk of the disease, such as those bitten by dogs or cats, show symptoms, pregnant women and those who have been scheduled to be vaccinated to receive the vaccination as instructed.
Those who have not been bitten or were bitten many days earlier but did not show symptoms of risk should wait to avoid overcrowding at the Pasteur Institute, which also urged people to be understanding when they wait a long time for service.