PHUKET: A doctor at the Phuket International Hospital has allayed fears that a virulent form of Coxsackie virus, more commonly known as hand, foot and mouth disease, has spread from Singapore to Phuket. Primary schools in Singapore have been closed in an effort to limit the spread of the Coxsackie B virus, which can result in death, particularly in infants. Dr Supranee Tansiriroj said that although the milder form of the disease, Coxsackie A, is endemic in Phuket – as it is in most parts of the world – the more dangerous variant has not been seen here. Hand, foot and mouth disease affects mostly children under the age of 10, who develop flu-like symptoms, sometimes accompanied by blisters on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the buttocks, and inside of the mouth. Symptoms last about a week to 10 days. The virus is transmitted through droplets in a child’s breath or by ingestion of fecal matter. The B variant can result in a heart infection that may lead to death. Meanwhile, the Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office, Dr Boonrieng Chuchaisangrat, told the Gazette today that Phuket is so far free of the leptospirosis epidemic that has spread from its normal range in Isarn and into Central and Southern Thailand. The disease, driven by widespread flooding, has reportedly affected 4,889 people nationwide. Of these, 165 have died in the past month. Leptospirosis, or Weil’s disease, is caused by the leptospira bacterium, which is normally carried in the kidneys of rats. The most common method of transmission to humans is via rat urine, either by ingesting tainted water or through cuts in the skin. Dr Boonrieng confirmed that leptospirosis is now widespread in Southern Thailand, but that most of the cases have been in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Surat Thani and neighboring provinces. “There has been only one patient in Phuket suspected of having the disease. He had the symptoms, but blood tests for the presence of the bacterium were negative. He has now recovered.” Dr Boonrieng said. Most of the deaths from leptospirosis occur because those affected by it live far from the nearest doctor. The initial symptoms are similar to ‘flu, with the result that some people do not seek medical attention until it is too late. As a precaution, Dr Boonrieng said, “We arranged a meeting with pharmacy owners and explained how to recognize the symptoms should someone affected by leptospirosis come into their shop.”
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