Asean Told to Remain Vigilant of SARS Threat

Asean member countries were declared free of severe acute respiratory syndrome Tuesday, prompting attendees of the Asean Plus Three Health Ministers Meeting on SARS in Siem Reap to celebrate, while international health experts advised senior officials to remain vigilant.

Cambodian Health Minister Dr Hong Sun Huot and health ministers from the nine other Asean countries plus Japan, South Ko­rea and China adopted a regional plan of action to improve information dissemination and health surveillance systems, crowning one of history’s most organized and collaborative efforts to deal with a rapidly spreading disease, said Dr Jim Tulloch, the World Health Organization representative to Cambodia.

Cambodia’s participation in the three-day conference should re­new its commitment to monitoring a possible outbreak, which has not happened here but has infected 8,421 and killed 784 people in 29 other countries, Tulloch said. “I think it will be difficult to maintain a regimen in a country where there hasn’t been any SARS and with the regional epidemic seemingly waning, but it will be ex­tremely important to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, a newly installed thermal scanning device at Phnom Penh International Air­port showed Monday that three travelers returning from China’s Guang­dong province had temperatures higher than 38 degrees Celsius.

The three were admitted to Cal­mette Hospital for observation but likely will be released today, since they were “perfectly normal” Tuesday, said Dr Jean Bap­tiste Dufourcq, Calmette’s emergency room director. Dufourcq said the scanner’s temperature setting is probably faulty.

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