Some Doubt as Cambodia Prepares for Polio-Free Status

Cambodia is ready to be certified as polio-free, government officials said Friday, meaning there has been no confirmed case in three years.

But at least one health-care professional said he was “100 percent sure” Cambodia has not yet eradicated the crippling disease.

In the annual meeting Friday of the National Certification Com­mittee for Polio Eradication, Dr Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Health Ministry, said Cambodia was prepared to apply to the regional certification commission for polio-free status.

“Since 1997, the­re has been no pol­io virus found,” Dr Mean Chhi Vun, chairman of the national com­mittee, said at a press conference.

David Basset, immunization expert for the World Health Organization, said that if there have been any more recent cases, “please inform us….”

Dr Beat Richner, director of Kantha Bopha hospitals, maintained Friday that he is “100 percent sure” cases still are showing up in his hospitals. The reason for the discrepancy, he said, is that the stool sample methods used by the committee and the regional commission, an independent body, are not always accurate.

“I doubt we can believe in these examinations,” Richner said Friday. “From the clinical point of view—as a doctor—I’m convinced we still have polio.” Richner said detection of the virus is a very “delicate” procedure, which often requires the examination of tissue samples.

WHO and National Certi­fication Committee officials discounted Richner’s claims as one professional’s opinion.

If there are suspected cases of polio still in Cambodia, “they should be reported to the proper authorities,” Bassett said.

He added that the national committee goes through a “very detailed” process of certification, and the regional commission is filled with “highly qualified persons.”

Once reported as possibly being polio, stool samples from patient are sent to labs in Tokyo, said Dr Mean Chhi Vun, chairman of the National Certification Committee, a group of six health care professionals independent of the Ministry of Health.


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