Civil society groups on Saturday appealed to the Ministry of Health to be more cautious when releasing statements that could cause panic after it issued a statement earlier this month claiming that a case of the deadly Zika virus had been diagnosed in Cambodia.
The ministry quickly issued a retraction of the erroneous statement, which said a 44-year-old man in Kampong Cham province had contracted the disease.
It said in the retraction that the results of a second analysis of the man’s condition received about an hour after the first statement had been issued showed he was in fact not a carrier.
Thida Khus, director of Silaka, an NGO that monitors public policy, said the incident had raised questions about the ability of health officials to make proper medical assessments.
“We want to trust what they say. However, it raises questions when they say there is [Zika] then take back their words and say there isn’t,” she said.
“We want the Ministry of Health … to be certain before releasing any statement, for the sake of credibility,” she added.
Yong Kim Eng, director of the People Center for Development and Peace, said it was “regretful” that the statement had been issued.
“Whenever it is thought that there is threat from a dangerous virus, it has to undergo strict laboratory analysis. Once the analysis done and it is found that there is a problem, only then should they make an announcement.”
Minister of Health Mam Bunheng could not be reached.
The Zika virus causes severe birth defects, particularly affecting the cerebral growth of the child, and has spread rapidly across Latin America. It can be transmitted through an exchange of bodily fluids and also from mother to child.
Thousands of cases have been reported worldwide, while in Southeast Asia, Singapore has reported more than 240 cases, and Malaysia and Thailand have also reported cases.