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This guide is intended to highlight the minor and major risks to the health of a visitor. It is deliberately short and should not be considered comprehensive. It was first written in 1992 and has since been updated.

Copyright Dr.Scott, Phnom Penh, 2005

  1. General Common Conditions
  2. Tropical Insect - Borne Infections
  3. Food & Water-Borne Infections
  4. Percutaneous Infections (Bites)
  5. Sexual Diseases
  6. Air-Borne Infections
  7. Health Care Problems – Advice from This Doctor



Approximately 2% of Cambodians are infected, which is low compared with up over 30% in some African countries. Globally persons are infected by way of: vaginal sex (75%), anal sex (7%), mother to baby (7%), injecting drugs (7%), blood transfusions (3%). The actual individual one off sexual act risk of acquiring HIV is very low (less than 1%), but this risk increases by the number of sexual encounters. High-risk groups are more likely to be infected: prostitutes (40%) army/police (8%). Condoms should always be used. Note that the Number One condom (size 48mm) is made for the Cambodian male; Europeans and Americans with larger penises should use a larger sized brand (52mm) such as Durex to prevent condom breakage. HIV testing should only be done in a reputable clinic; some local clinics use inferior tests giving false results. HIV antiretroviral drugs are available in Phnom Penh and are cheap.

Hepatitis B

The prevalence among the Cambodian people is 13%. For the visitor the primary risk is through sexual contact, although for the person staying longer than 6 months the risk is also by faecal contamination of food or water. Hepatitis B vaccination does not work in 10 - 20% of those vaccinated; a blood test is therefore necessary to determine if you have protective antibodies or not.

Penile discharge

Gonorrhoea, chlamydia, gardnerella, herpes, candida, ureaplasma, trichomonas, and other conditions can give a penile discharge, or not. Symptoms may be similar, different, or none. Treatment however is different for each disease. Do not self medicate - prostatitis and sterility are consequences if you do. See a doctor specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual diseases.

Vaginal discharge

When the quality and quantity of a discharge changes, time to see a doctor. Candidiasis or thrush is more likely if tight clothes are worn especially in a hot humid country. Diabetes, hormones, antibiotics and lowered immunity are other causes. Trichomonas is a cause of a heavy discharge and can be caught from moist towels. Gardnerella typically gives a fishy odour most noticeable after sexual intercourse. As 50% of women infected with gonorrhoea or chlamydia have no discharge and are unaware they are infected, these diseases should also be screened for at the same time as examining the discharge; failure to do so could lead to infertility.

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