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H1N1 Claims Fourth Cambodian

A 51-year-old woman succumbed to the H1N1 virus, officials said Thursday, bringing the death toll to four, with the total amount of confirmed cases in the country at 239.

The death comes as Phnom Penh is preparing for the annual Water Festival, which draws millions of people to crowd the capital’s waterfront for three days.

Health officials worry the close proximity of revelers will lead to a rapid expansion of the disease. Following the festival last year, Cambodia reported a new case of bird flu.

The latest victim of the H1N1 virus, sometimes called swine flu, was a Phnom Penh resident who had suffered from liver disease and had been ill for “many years,” Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health’s communicable disease department, said.

Symptoms of the pandemic virus are much the same as seasonal influenza, including a high fever, coughing, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and lethargy, health experts say. It can be transmitted at least one day before symptoms appear, after which it is contagious for at least a week.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng encouraged people to cover their mouths and noses with tissue when coughing or sneezing and to deposit the tissue in a bin. Hand-washing with soap and water can also contain the spread of the disease, he said.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 340,000 cases of the disease worldwide have led to 4,100 deaths as of late September.