PHUKET: The Phuket Provincial Health Office has set up protection measures at the Phuket International Airport to ensure that an epidemic in Singapore of Coxsackie B virus – better known as hand, foot and mouth disease – does not spread to Thailand. The potentially deadly disease has already spread to Malaysia, with 221 cases reported, and two deaths. In Singapore, 1,150 cases have been recorded, with three dead. “There’s a chance that children coming from Singapore or Malaysia are sick with this disease,” said Pol Lt Col Kwanchai Khongtawin, Immigration Police inspector at Phuket International Airport. “So we have set up a center to check them, and we won’t allow a child to enter the country until doctors at the airport have confirmed that he or she does not carry the virus,” he said. Dr Boonrieng Chuchaisangrat, chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office, said that although a 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. “In Phuket we have found a few children with [Coxsackie A] symptoms, but not very many,” said Dr Boonrieng. “It is not too dangerous, nor does it cause death.” 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 the mouth. The B variant can result in damage to the heart muscle that may lead to death. The virus is transmitted through droplets in a child’s breath or by ingestion of fecal matter. “Parents with children less than 10 years old should not take them to Singapore now, especially if the child has a problem with cancer, allergies or diabetes,” Dr Boonrieng warned.
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