The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, an atypical pneumonia like illness that has sickened more than 1500 people and killed 54 others throughout Asia and Canada has not made it’s way to Cambodia.
The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have been working hard to ensure that Cambodia is prepared for an outbreak of the disease, but is adamant in its assurances that SARS has not been identified in the country.
The illness, marked by high fever and respiratory difficulty, was recognized at the end of February 2003. On March 29 SARS took the life of Dr Carlo Urbani, the WHO doctor who diagnosed the disease in Hanoi and alerted the medical community of its severity. The Cambodian medical community has mourned Urbani’s death, as he was pivotal in distributing medicine to villagers living in territories controlled by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1990s.
To date, almost all reported SARS cases have occurred in health workers involved in the direct care of the sick or through close person-to-person contact.
The WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network has coordinated an international multicenter effort to identify the causative agent. The project unites 11 laboratories in 10 countries.
At the time of Leisure’s publication, WHO was working with health authorities to identify an effective treatment for SARS. WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response teams in Hanoi and Hong Kong, China are assisting health authorities in outbreak management and in the collection of epidemiological and clinical data that can im-prove understanding of SARS.
Responding quickly to the threat of an outbreak, the Ministry of Health devised an emergency plan of its own to isolate cases as quickly as possible. Airport authorities, as well as border officials, were instructed to report all travelers suffering from SARS symptoms. Standby medical centers also were proposed to provide immediate care to the sick.
Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh was designated as the official receiving center. Patients suspected of carrying SARS are to be referred to this hospital only, while the Pasteur Institute will be used to conduct tests on stool and sputum samples from the sick or the dead. One specific ambulance also is reserved for the transport of SARS patients.
The Health Ministry’s response to the threat of illness has been remarkable, particularly in its attention to the public’s right and need to know. Working with the media to dispel any rumors that could send the public into a frenzy of fear, health officials have urged people to stay calm.
Health officials also have suggested that preventative measures be taken. These include washing one’s hands and covering one’s mouth. Doctors are urged to use sterile needles when treating patients.
To further combat sickness, the Elizabeth Polyclinic has stocked its shelves with flu vaccinations. The clinic now has 500 adult vaccinations and 300 more for children.