Authorities in Kampong Chhnang and Oddar Meanchey provinces are conducting an important educational campaign in markets and towns across the provinces about the dangers of consuming puffer fish, following the recent deaths of two men.

Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Sun Sovannarith explained that the provincial administration has instructed the provincial health department and relevant authorities to share information with the people of all 71 communes throughout the province to avoid further poisoning cases.

“We are educating the public, as some people are unaware of which fish are poisonous, and which are safe. I have ordered that loudspeakers be used to warn people throughout the province. We are telling them not to eat any kind of puffer fish,” he said, on July 10. 

Ten people living in the province’s Dambok Kak Koh village, in Phnom Kraing Dey Meas commune of Rolea Bier district, ate puffer fish bought from Kampong Chhnang Leu market, with seven of the diners admitted to the provincial referral hospital on July 4 after falling ill. Fortunately, all seven of the patients have now recovered.

A 60-year-old man in Khsam commune, Kampong Chhnang town was not so lucky, and passed away on July 8 after consuming the deadly fish.

The governor explained that he was initially admitted to the provincial referral hospital, but such was the severity of his case, it was decided to transfer him to Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, the victim died on the way to the capital, most likely from eating puffer fish.

Details of the Kingdom’s five toxic species of puffer fish were released by the health ministry, following the latest poisoning case. Health ministry

“When river fish is mixed with flour and fried, how can consumers know what species it is, and whether it is poisonous? People from fishing communities may be able to tell, but how would townspeople know? The deceased man from Khsam commune was probably poisoned from eating puffer fish, and died on the way to Phnom Penh,” he said. 

He added that this was the first such case resulting in death in Kampong Chhnang province this year. Although poisoning cases occur occasionally, the victims generally recover after treatment.

As of July 10, he said there have been no more cases, and expressed his belief that the educational activities of health officials would prevent more poisonings.

While Kampong Chhnang province is rich in fish thanks to its proximity to the Tonle Sap Lake, a less common incident occurred in Oddar Meanchey province, when a man died on July 7, again after consuming puffer fish.

An emergency response team from the provincial health department investigated the case, which took place in Kork Trang village of Chong Kal district’s Cheung Tien commune, on July 8. Officials from the department promptly banned the consumption of puffer fish.

Ministry of Health spokesman Koy Vanny could not be reached for comment on July 10. However, the ministry issued a July 8 public warning, following the death of the two men. 

“To avoid further poisonings, people should not eat puffer fish because the toxins in the fish can cause serious illness or death. The toxins in the fish cannot be eliminated, even if it is cooked or frozen,” said the release.