Bundle up for month-long cold spell, health officials say

ThermometerCambodians joke that the country has but two seasons, rainy and hot.

It turns out that there is a third one, according to the health authorities.  They have issued warnings about a cold spell that is expected to last until early next month.

By “cold,” they mean as low as 13 degrees Celsius (55.4 Fahrenheit) in mountains that are hours on the road from Phnom Penh and 22 degree Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) in the capital city.

Citizens are advised to wear warm clothes but not tight ones, which are said to impede circulation.  To prevent the spreading of illnesses, we are told, individuals should avoid direct contact with those who are sick and seek medical assistance if experiencing any symptoms of their own.

In a joint statement with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Health Ministry said this is prime time for colds, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses, according to the Phnom Penh Post.  “Babies, children, and the elderly are highly vulnerable to diseases that are the result of the cold climate,” the statement reads.  It added that elderly persons with illnesses such as diabetes are particularly at risk.

My initial reaction to the warning was to chuckle.  What are those temperatures compared with the extremes I experienced in North America?

But then I learned the following:

Tens of thousands of Cambodians are reported to have contracted respiratory illnesses during last year’s cold spell.  In addition, the period between December and April also sees an uptick in cases of bird flu.  Said one official:

Since it is the time when there are many weddings and other ceremonies, we have to be careful when we have contact with birds such as chickens and ducks and do not touch sick or dead birds.  You need to report immediately to a health center if you suspect you have bird flu.

So far this year, there have been nine reported cases of bird flu and four deaths from that scourge, said the official, Ly Sovann, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Communicable Disease Control.

Still, I must confess that I continue to find it kind of funny to see “cold” and “Cambodia” in the same sentence.

 e-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com

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