Diphtheria spread in Thailand sparks AEC concerns
The Public Health Ministry is boosting measures to prevent contagious diseases affecting marginalised people when the Asean Economic Community is launched in 2015.
The move came after the re-emergence of diphtheria in some northeastern provinces in the middle of this year. Diphtheria was thought to have been eradicated in Thailand.
The ministry reported that 87 patients in 15 northeastern provinces had contracted the disease. Two of them died. More than half of the patients were detected in Loei province next to Laos.
Public health authorities said the disease was being spread from Laos.
The ministry ordered officials to be on full alert for the spread of the disease.
It also put Phetchabun on high alert because it borders Loei.
The re-emergence of diphtheria prompted permanent secretary for public health Narong Sahamethapat to visit Hmong villages on Thab Berg mountain in Lom Kao district on Friday.
He he ordered provincial public health officials to keep an eye out for signs of the disease. "Diphtheria could come back during the AEC, when people will be able to travel easily from one country to another," Dr Narong said.
In the case of Phetchabun where Hmong tribes have migrated from Laos, the provincial public health office has a record of 18 people being diagnosed with diphtheria.
Public health officials recently gave vaccines to tribal people to prevent the spread of the disease.
"The health care system is not decent enough in [countries neighbouring the North and Northeast]," he said. "It is highly possible they will bring contagious diseases to Thailand because their health is not properly examined."
More checkpoints are needed to assess visitors' health before they can enter Thailand, he said.
Dr Narong said it would be difficult to set up such checkpoints because both countries would need to cooperate to keep migrants' and visitors' health records.He said the Public Health Ministry had come up with a solution of creating a healthcare programme for marginalised people, such as migrant workers, tribespeople and stateless people.
"Everyone living in Thailand will benefit from the Thai healthcare system," he said. "Contagious diseases will be easier to control because everyone [who enters Thailand] will be tested."
Under the current system, legal migrant workers are included in the social security healthcare scheme automatically. Employers of migrant workers who are either waiting for proof of nationality or are hired without work permits are required to buy workers a 1,300-baht healthcare package provided by the Public Health Ministry.
Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below