Hotels get crash course in disease control

PATONG: Dr Wiwat Sitamanod of the Phuket Provincial Health Office on Wednesday said that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) is investigating claims that six tourists contracted Legionnaire’s disease while on holiday in Patong.

“The PPHO received a fax from a foreign embassy on January 9 about some of their nationals who were diagnosed as having Legionnaire’s disease after being on holiday in Phuket.

“On January 10 we investigated this claim and then held a meeting to discuss this with 50 hotels in Patong. Now foreign countries have placed emphasis [on this] and are watching Phuket about this,” he said.

Dr Wiwat declined to name the two hotels involved.

However, the MoPH website states that five tourists who have contracted the disease – two Swedes, two Finns and one Norwegian – stayed at one hotel in Phuket. A Belgian tourist, staying at a different hotel on the island, was later also confirmed as having contracted the disease.

The website states that the first five tourists infected were staying at a 400-room hotel that, under supervision of the PPHO, has since undertaken extensive cleaning of its air conditioning system, cooling towers, and water supply.

Dr Wiwat was speaking at seminar entitled “Protection and Control of Legionnaire’s” at Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa in Patong. The event was attended by more than 400 hotel employees from Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi.

In addition, a workshop was held for some 90 technicians from Phuket hotels to train them in how to keep all equipment free of Legionella bacteria.

“Now, within two weeks of the report [claiming that Legionnaire’s disease was contracted in Phuket] we must report to the European Working Group for Legionella Infections [EWGLI] the results of our investigations and what control measures we have taken.

“We must [focus on this problem] this until they are satisfied with what measures we have taken,” Dr Wiwat said.

Leaflets handed out at the seminar explained that if EWGLI is not satisfied with corrective measures taken, the organization will post on its website the names of the hotels where the disease was believed to have been contracted.

The notice will be posted for two years, or until EWGLI is satisfied with remedial action taken.

Dr Wanchai, Chief of the PPHO, declined to name the hotels involved. “I don’t want to announce the names of the hotels… PPHO officers have checked and already have the situation under control,” he said.

However, Dr Wanchai explained that to boost tourist confidence in hotels that are not sources of the disease, the PPHO has launched its “Golden Certified” project. Hotels can apply to be inspected by the PPHO, which will assess what policies and procedures the hotel has in place to protect against Legionnaire’s Disease.

To be “Golden Certified”, hotels must file with the Department of Health a certificate issued by Wachira Phuket Hospital verifying that water samples from that hotel do not contain Legionella bacteria.

PPHO Chief Dr Wanchai Satthayawuthipong explained that the project focuses not only on Legionnaire’s disease, but also on other communicable diseases. It also reviews hotel construction, fittings and furnishings to ensure the buildings themselves are not breeding grounds for germs.

The project also includes some aspects not directly related to public health issues.

“It includes staff training and whether a resort’s administrative system meets ‘quality’ standards,” he said.

Phuket News
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