PHUKET CITY: Thanks to continuing measures to prevent the spread of swine flu, Phuket’s authorities believe the crisis is abating.
Rapid spread this year of the flu, formally identified as ‘novel influenza virus A (H1N1)’, led the World Health Organization (WHO) – for the first time since 1968’s Hong Kong flu – to declare a global pandemic.
In Phuket, two persons have succumbed out of 326 reported cases – a mortality rate of 0.61 percent. By comparison, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) cites an overall rate of 0.05 percent for ‘seasonal flu’.
The number of reported deaths from swine flu in Southeast Asia – with a population of 568 million – was, as of Tuesday, a not-too-daunting 280.
The great fear, however, is that the virus may mutate into a more lethal strain.
To keep it under control in Phuket, authorities have undertaken a prevention campaign targeting businesses and government which includes, among other measures, urgent installation of ventilation fans.
Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health also mandate monthly reporting by businesses and officials from tambon to provincial levels as well as instructing the populace in prevention methods.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is sending ‘situation reports’ to its overseas offices; Patong’s municipal government is handing out prevention leaflets on Soi Bangla and elsewhere; and the Provincial Agricultural and Co-Operatives Office (PACO) is trying to influence habits of agricultural workers through education because “the office has little direct contact with people.”
The Royal Navy’s Third Fleet, headquartered at Cape Panwa in Phuket, announced that officers and men with flu symptoms would be isolated from the general population, and the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office announced it would be inspecting the island’s population of roughly 6,000 pigs on 42 farms for flu signs.
This last measure, however, may make no difference in mitigating the influenza’s effect on humans because the virus reportedly is spread only between humans, not between animals and humans; nor is it possible for humans to contract the virus by eating the flesh of infected pigs.
The prevention campaign appears to be working – at least for the present.
Last week, at Gov Wichai Phraisa-ngop’s monthly ‘War Room’ meeting of civil service chiefs, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr Wiwat Sitomnoch said “the situation now is calm” but urged undiminished vigilance because “it is the rainy season, when flu bugs are easy to catch.”
He also noted that October and November are when avian flu spreads, adding that “symptoms of swine flu, avian flu and seasonal flu are similar.”
— Pimwara Choksakulpan
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