Ministry Launches Zika Awareness Campaign

Health officials are touring the provinces in a fleet of vehicles plastered with warnings and mounted with loudspeakers to raise awareness about the Zika virus and share strategies to prevent its outbreak, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Zika, a mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted disease that has caused birth defects across Latin America, has been detected in growing numbers of people in Southeast Asia over the past month. More than 500 cases have been recorded across Singapore and Thailand this year, according to local media reports, as well as at least 40 cases in Malaysia and three in Vietnam.

No cases have been reported in Cambodia since 2010, but Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann said officials were preparing for the worst.

The fleet of Zika-awareness vehicles left for the provinces on Wednesday to distribute leaflets and disseminate advice, Mr. Sovann said, adding that he did not know how many vehicles were part of the fleet.

The campaign may also include public service announcements on television, the spokesman said. “The ministry is considering producing a Zika educational spot, but it is still waiting to discuss this with technical experts,” he said.

And if Zika does spread to Cambodia, there are 2,000 health professionals trained to diagnose, treat and contain the virus, he said.

In an advisory released on Tuesday, the Health Ministry recommended that people wear long sleeves, pants and repellant to avoid mosquito bites, and cover containers of standing water that act as mosquito breeding grounds.

It also warned Cambodian travelers returning from Zika-affected countries to avoid unprotected intercourse for six months.

“Those who have unprotected sex—but don’t want to get pregnant due to concerns about Zika—must use birth control or discuss with doctors,” it said.

Seven cases of Zika were found in Cambodia between 2007 and 2010, according to the Health Ministry, but the patients made a full recovery and the cases did not lead to birth defects.

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