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PM urges calm in rabies scare

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
People wait in line for their turn to receive rabies vaccination in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on the people not to panic over rabies and simply seek vaccination although they have not been bitten by infected dogs or cats.

During the celebration of the 7th National Clean City Day in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that many people have flocked to be vaccinated for rabies following the death of a girl who was bitten by a cat.

He said that people should not use vaccines meant to treat or protect those who have been bitten.

“I want to appeal to people across the country not to panic over the death of a girl and create fear about rabies,” Mr Hun Sen said. “So please keep the vaccines for those who are bitten by dogs or cats and those who are continuing treatment.”

“Some people were not bitten by dogs, but they also came to get vaccination, which was not necessary for them, from the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia and other places, which become crowded,” he noted.

Mr Hun Sen advised that the best measure to prevent rabies is to avoid getting bitten by dogs and cats by not playing with the animals.

He also asked the Health Ministry to distribute vaccines to public hospitals and private clinics in Phnom Penh and the provinces to speed up treatment of rabies.

According to a 2009 research by Institut Pasteur in Cambodia, rabies is a fatal but preventable disease. However, it poses a major public health problem in developing countries.

In Cambodia, the disease is a problem because people who are infected are rarely hospitalised and die at home, IPC said.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry also appealed to people who are not bitten by dogs or cats not to crowd the Pasteur Institute and the National Public Health Institute in Phnom Penh or the Rabies Vaccine Center in Battambang province to seek vaccination.

At present, these three institutes are the only public hospitals which can treat rabies in the Kingdom.

People flock to Phnom Penh to receive vaccination. KT/Chor Sokunthea

However, there are also some private hospitals which offer treatment.

The ministry said those who are not bitten by dogs or cats should allow those in need of treatment, especially those in the high-risk groups such as pregnant women, to be vaccinated quickly.

Nhea Bunthorn, Kampot provincial health department director, yesterday said that state public health services in the province do not yet have vaccination services.

He noted that when people are bitten or scratched by dogs or cats they have to seek treatment in Phnom Penh.

“I support the statement from Mr Hun Sen to the ministry about the distribution of the vaccines,” Mr Bunthorn said. “It will be good if it is distributed in my province, but it is also more important to educate people about rabies.”

“They should know how to avoid getting the disease and to seek treatment if they are bitten by dogs or cats,” he added.

Ly Sovann, Health Ministry spokesman, yesterday said that the ministry has already cooperated with Pasteur Institute to expand the provision of rabies vaccines in Battambang province and plans to expand the service to other provinces.

Ly Sowath, Pasteur Institute deputy director, declined to comment yesterday.

However, he stated previously that about 800 people die from rabies in Cambodia each year.

According to the Health Ministry, rabies is a disease caused by a virus that infects domestic and wild animals, such as dogs, cats, bats, monkeys and other mammals.

It said that in Cambodia the disease is mostly transmitted to humans through dog bites.

The ministry noted that rabies is fatal if victims do not receive sufficient vaccination on time after they are bitten.

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