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What The Doctor Says
By: Laura M. Tom ( May, 2003 Volume 3 No. )

It is not guns and bombs that are worrying people from Asia to Canada. It is the unseen severe acute respiratory syndrome that has killed more than 200 people and continues to infect thousands of others.

The pneumonia-like disease, for which no cure has been found, originated in China and has spread to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Canada, among others. At the time of printing, Cambodia had not reported a single case of the potentially deadly disease. Working against what appears to be an inevitable outbreak, the Ministry of Health has been working closely with the World Health Organization to install preventative measures that could protect the country against widespread infection.

In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over an Asean meeting on SARS in Bangkok. Thailand proposed that certain measures--including transferring SARS patients to designated hospitals, isolating the patients, and surveying the health of patients' families- should be adopted by all countries in the region.

Although Cambodia is one of the region's last holdouts against SARS, it is working to tighten health surveillance at the borders and equip medical officials with appropriate protective gear. Citizens must also work to minimize their chances of contracting the disease. The Ministry of Health has advised people to wash their hands and cover their mouths. People should also seek medical consultation if they are suffering from high fever, respiratory difficulty, and have been in contact with someone who has traveled through an affected SARS area.

Two national hospitals have been designated the official SARS receiving facilities. Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh and the Siem Reap Children's Hospital can be referred to for quarantine or consultation.