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Ministry issues travel alert over mystery illness in China

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Ministry of Health has issued a travel warning to travellers planning visits to Wuhan city in China’s Hubei province to be careful following the death of a person from a mysterious pneumonia-like infectious illness.

Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann yesterday said one person died, seven others are in critical condition and 47 others have mild symptoms of the disease in Wuhan.

He said two of the 47 were recovering while more than 700 people who were in contact with the patients have been quarantined.

Mr Sovann said the pneumonia-like illness is caused by a new strain of coronavirus which is transmitted by animals, but scientists are still baffled over which type of animal.

He said there is also no evidence of human-to-human transmissions.

“There are many types of coronaviruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold and severe pneumonia,” Mr Sovann said. “Two types of coronaviruses previously detected include one that caused SARS, which was transmitted by civet cats in 2003 and another that caused MERS through transmission by camels.”

“Researchers are still studying this new strain,” he added.

Mr Sovann said citizens should stay away from outbreak areas and markets in Wuhan. It said they should not touch animals there. He said travellers must practice good hygiene regularly, adding that the virus has not yet been detected in the Kingdom.

“If any of our people or tourists visit Wuhan, please do not touch animals and keep more than one metre away from anyone displaying signs of respiratory disease,” he said, adding it is advisable to regularly wash hands using soap.

“If anyone travels to Wuhan and returns to Cambodia…with a fever of more than 38.5 degrees Celsius, coughs or shortness of breath, they have to report immediately to the nearest health official to receive timely treatment,” Mr Sovann added.

He said the ministry has been monitoring passengers at Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville international airports by using thermal scanners.

Mr Sovann said more than 2,000 health officials have been trained to monitor and respond to the new disease to be prepared for any outbreak.

“The ministry also has a highly-capable laboratory, recognised by the World Health Organization and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. The laboratory is ready to test and identify the new strain of virus quickly,” he said.

Khek Norinda, communications director of Cambodia Airports, yesterday said the thermal scanners in all three airports are already being operated by Health Ministry officials.

“The thermal scanners started operating at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday and both Sihanoukville and Siem Reap airports on Saturday,” he said.

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