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Cambodia’s invisible super spreader causes up to 17 COVID-19 community infection cases

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An ambulance and medical official outside a residence at a gated community to transport a victim to hospital. Swift News

Although 17 cases, almost all related directly or indirectly via employment with the first case of community spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus in Cambodia – the 56 year old wife of the Director-General of Prisons – have been detected this far, contact tracing officials have become exasperated with the difficulty in finding out the “patient zero” of the case.

It is essential to locate “patient zero” to determine how he or she got infected and start tracing back past activities and contacts and to determine when and where the 56 year old woman got infected.

In medical terms, the first case in a chain of infections is popularly called “patient zero”.

In epidemiological language, the first case in an outbreak to come to the attention of investigators is referred to as the “index case”. The actual individual who introduced the disease at the start of the outbreak is called the “primary case”.

In this first community outbreak case in Cambodia, “patient zero” currently remains invisible and the 56 year old woman has been identified as the “index patient”.

A health official speaking in confidence to Khmer Times last night said “It is critical for contract tracing officials to find the first known case because it helps work out how and where the outbreak occurred, and give an idea as to the possible extent of the infection in terms of geographical location and also possible patients.

“In this November 28 community incident, we identified certain locations and because of this, schools, museums, and other places were shut and additional testing facilities were established.

“What is critical is that the government continues to act swiftly and rapidly and minimize numbers of people gathering. The time the first patient showed symptoms and the time she went for test had considerable lapses and it is a challenge to back trace the contacts.”

He added that the contact tracing officials are also investigating whether the first patient had come into contact indirectly with an asymptomatic patient or someone who had the virus and was detected after the first or second test.

Authorities now need to determine exactly how, where and when this person became infected, so they can tighten procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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