Prime Minister Hun Sen sought to assuage the country’s fears over the global swine influenza outbreak by calling Wednesday for an Asean summit on the health threat and reassuring the public that pork products are safe to eat.
Calling the spread of swine flu an international issue, the premier said he asked Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of Asean, to host a special meeting at which countries could tackle the problem together.
“I talked to Surin Pitsuwan today to request the Asean special summit and call all Asean health ministers and agriculture ministers to join,” he said during a graduation ceremony address at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.
On Wednesday, the Secretary-General of Asean issued a statement urging the Asean members to meet soon in order to prevent the spread of the disease as well as share information.
“The Asean Health Ministers should get together at the earliest time possible. The Thai Ministry of Public Health has expressed its readiness to host the meeting in Bangkok most probably in early May,” Mr Surin Pitsuwan said in the statement.
The prime minister emphasized that eating properly prepared pork was not a health risk since the disease typically spreads by contact with infected animals or humans.
He said people needed to take precautions, such as covering their mouths or reporting flu-like symptoms, but added that avoiding pork was not necessary.
“This disease does not infect by eating pork so people please do not stop eating pork,” the premier said.
Sok Touch, director of the communicable disease control department at the Health Ministry, said that, as of Wednesday, Cambodia had no reported cases of the illness. He added that the department met Tuesday with a variety of health organizations as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries to flesh out a reaction plan in case the virus reaches Cambodia.
So far no neighboring countries have reported cases of swine flu. A 42-year-old woman was quarantined in Thailand on Tuesday for
a possible swine-flu infection but was later found to be suffering from only ordinary human flu, the English-language newspaper the Bangkok Post wrote Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)