Battambang Man Tested For Swine Flu

Cambodian health officials are testing a 62-year-old man in Battambang province for the H1N1 swine flu and are searching for a father and daughter who traveled to Cambodia on the same aircraft as a Vietnamese woman who tested positive for the virus in South Korea on Tuesday, officials said.

The three, all Cambodian-Amer-

icans, arrived in Phnom Penh via Seoul on May 17 and must now be tested to determine if they have contracted the virus, said Dr Sok Touch, director of the epidemic disease dep-

artment at the Ministry of Health. So far the virus reportedly has infected 11,000 people and killed 85 worldwide.

Health officials traced one of the travelers, Chay Cerone, to a village in Battambang’s Ek Phnom district on Friday afternoon, and officials have sent a sample of the man’s blood to Phnom Penh for testing.

“He is staying with relatives. His health is normal, but we advised him to not have much contact with other people and he understood this,” Dr Touch said by telephone, adding that the long flight from Seattle to Seoul gave Mr Cerone ample opportunity for exposure to the disease from the infected Vietnamese passenger.

“We are testing his blood sample to ensure the safety of society and himself,” he said.

The two other passengers, Pann Thy, 46, and his daughter Pann Saroun, 26, must seek medical assistance and must be tested for the H1N1 virus, Dr Touch said, adding that the pair may have traveled to visit relatives in Kampot province, and authorities there are searching for them.

The three did not display symptoms of the virus on arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, and there are as yet no confirmed cases of swine flu in Cambodia, according to a joint statement on Friday from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

Chhou Kimny, chief of the immigration police at Phnom Penh International Airport, said finding the father and daughter should not be difficult.

“Two of them, who are [father and daughter], told officers that they would go to Kampot province to visit their relatives there,” he said.

Jin Sun-hye, third secretary of the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, said that on May 17 the three flew aboard Asiana Airlines flight OZ 217 from Seattle to Incheon International Airport in Seoul, where airport body scanners found one passenger had a fever. On Tuesday tests conducted in Seoul confirmed the woman had contracted swine flu, she said.

The 92 other passengers on that flight have since left South Korea, and Cambodia is only one of several countries to have received notices from the South Korean government warning that the passengers may have been exposed to swine flu, she said.

A letter sent Wednesday from the embassy to the Ministry of Health advises the ministry to quarantine the three Cambodian-Amer-

ican passengers until tests can be conducted and finalized.

The majority of the 11,000 cases of swine flu have been limited to North America, and the only cases to surface in Southeast Asia were two non-fatal ones in Thailand earlier this month, according to the WHO.

Testing will only take 12 hours for the three Cambodian-Amer-

icans, said Dr Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist with the WHO.

If the three test positive for the virus officials will have to trace everyone that have had contact with and test them also, Dr Asgari said.

The decision to isolate suspected cases of swine flu is up to the government, he said, adding that swine flu is slightly more infectious than a seasonal flu.

While it’s unlikely the three have contracted the flu, Cambodia should expect some infections eventually, Dr Asgari said.

“This is a disease which over the last few months has spread to roughly 42 countries. To say that we are not going to see a case in this country ever is unrealistic,” he said.

The government so far has taken the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease, he added, citing such things as increased screening at the airport, more attention to unusual illnesses seen by doctors and contingency plans.


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