Cambodian health officials and counterparts are ramping up a campaign intended to educate the public about the outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, while also urging health facilities to keep a watchful eye out for children who exhibit a broad range of symptoms.
The campaign arrives on the heels of preliminary findings that the virus causing HFMD in Cambodia, EV-71, is similar to the strain found in neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam.
“These preliminary data…suggest that strains in Cambodia are part of the ongoing outbreak of EV71 that is proceeding across Asia and involves strains similar to those observed in other countries in the region,” Philippe Buchy of the Pastuer Institute of Cambodia wrote in an online post.
A spokesman for the World Health Organization confirmed to the Post last week that testing of the EV-71 samples in Cambodia showed that the entereovirus was not showing a Cambodia-specific mutation and had a similar structure to the EV-71 found in Vietnam, Thailand, China and Taiwan.
Denise Shepherd-Johnson, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, told the Post yesterday that the awareness campaign will include television spots and posters to promote basic sanitation.
“I believe the TV spot is the most popular way to reach people,” she said.
The rest of the campaign aims at health workers, said the WHO’s Sonny Imbaraj, who said people need to “recognise the signs and symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease ... to refer the severe cases to the hospitals”.
A joint statement released at the end of the last week said that children with signs of high fever, vomiting, convulsions, spasms or difficulty breathing should be brought to a hospital immediately.
Mild symptoms include fever and blisters on the hands, feet and mouth.
Last week saw 533 cases and three deaths in 17 provinces.
HFMD killed a Cambodian child in Thailand over the weekend, said a local news report, but Thai officials said the virus had been contracted there.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]