Doctors Confident: Cambodia Still SARS-Free

The condition of a Cambodian boy suspected of having severe acute respiratory syndrome im­proved Friday, boosting doctors’ confidence that Cambodia may yet be in the clear of an outbreak.

The 16-year-old boy had been studying in China’s Guangdong province for the three months. He returned to Cambodia on May 16 suffering from a cough and diarrhea, according to the Ministry of Health. The boy suffered from an undocumented fever two days before leaving China.

The boy was admitted to Cal­mette Hospital on Wednesday and now suffers only from a minor cough, said Dr Jean Bap­tiste Dufourcq, Calmette Hos­pital’s emergency room and in­tensive care unit supervisor.

“If there is no problem, perhaps he will be cleared of SARS in a few days,” Dufourcq said on Friday, adding that tests conducted to diagnose other diseases were due back this weekend.

Officials will monitor the health of the boy’s family until the end of May, said WHO consultant Dr Vong Sirenda. The family has been advised to practice home quarantine until the boy is cleared of SARS. The WHO has determined that the boy’s classmates and other contacts in China do not have SARS, he said.

Health officials could not explain how the boy passed through airport surveillance without being identified as having at least two out of three of the red-flag criteria: travel through a SARS-affected area and a dry cough.

The breakdown in surveillance comes just a week after representatives from the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh international airports’ customs departments and the ministries of Interior and Health returned from the Asean Plus Three Aviation Forum in Manila with plans to strengthen airport response measures.

After returning from the two-day conference last week, the Ministry of Heath’s Dr Ly Sovann said he thought Cambodia was doing more than other countries to detect potential SARS carriers.

On Thursday, Ly Sovann said the most recent SARS-suspect may not have been detected at the airport because he had no signs of a fever.

The Ministry of Health has not issued an official order to increase personnel at the airport, but Ly Sovann said more medical officers would be sent to supervise the monitoring of passengers’ health and travel histories.

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