Immigration Screens for SARS by Air, Not Land

Although officials at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh International airports have begun screening international travelers for severe acute respiratory syndrome, an immigration official in Poipet said that no instructions have been given to border police in relation to the SARS scare.

Pich Saran, immigration police chief of the Poipet border checkpoint, said Sunday that he had received no instructions from the Health Ministry to survey travelers’ health conditions.

“We were not informed to prevent any infection, and no orders came from upper Cambodian leaders to tell people to wear masks,” he said.

The only warning border officials have received, Pich Saran said, has come from their Thai counterparts. “Thai authorities gave us masks and told us to please wear them to prevent infection from disease,” he said.

Thailand has reported nine cases of SARS, including two deaths, the Bangkok Post reported Sun­day. No cases have been found in Cambodia.

Dr Sovann Ly, Vice chief of the Health Ministry’s Disease Pre­ven­tion Bureau, on Sunday echoed last week’s warning from Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot.

“We have advised Cambodians to postpone their travel to infected areas,” Sovann Ly said.

Meanwhile, one Phnom Penh health clinic is offering an influenza vaccine to boost the immune system—a measure, it says, that could help protect against SARS.

A worker at the Elizabeth Poly­clinic, who asked not to be named, said the clinic did not pro­mise a cure or a vaccine for SARS, but hoped to strengthen the immune system.

But Dr Severin Von Xylander of the World Health Organization said no vaccination currently exists to prevent SARS.

“That is a misleading advertisement. There is no vaccine that can protect against SARS,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

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