Prime Minister Hun Sen made a public call for calm over swine flu on Wednesday, but he encouraged families to outfit themselves with face masks, as more cases were reported around the globe.
“I call on the Cambodian population, first of all, don’t panic,” Hun Sen said at Phnom Penh’s National Institute of Education, where he was delivering certificates to teachers. “Secondly, people should protect themselves; where we suspect the epidemic, we should be careful. If possible, all families, all people, should protect themselves with masks.”
“The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health have not yet made a declaration about this, but we should be prepared for it,” Hun Sen said.
Swine flu has killed 159 people so far, spreading from Mexico to other nations around the world and sparking worries of a pandemic.
The influenza comes from the H1N1 virus, which is easily spread from person to person. In that way, it differs from avian influenza’s H5N1 virus, which has killed 252 people, including seven Cambodians, since 2005.
“Swine flu is a new epidemic, and a quick epidemic, if we compare it to SARS or bird flu,” Hun Sen said, referring to severe acute respiratory syndrome, which spread across the globe in 2003, killing 774 people.
While warning Cambodians to take measures to protect themselves, the prime minister encouraged people to continue eating pork and said the export of the product would not be restricted.
Health officials said Cambodia is prepared to mitigate some of its effects if the disease reaches Cambodia.
“Until now, we have not yet found out about the virus of swine flu,” Ly Sovann, deputy director of the department of communicable disease control at the Ministry of Health, told VOA Khmer.
There is so far no vaccine against the virus, he said, “but we have a pill, Tamiflu, that we have stored at the provincial health offices and the national health stockpiles. If swine flu erupts in Cambodia, we can prevent it.”
Meanwhile, Cambodia installed thermal scanners in its two international airports, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, where officials will examine and possibly hospitalize individuals with signs of fever.
“If we suspect them of having swine flu, we should detain them and take them to be checked at the hospital,” Hun Sen said Wednesday.