Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Health Ministry tightens preventive measures

All Thais returning from Mexico have tested negative to the A(H1N1) virus, Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodi announced yesterday.

Seven students and seven teachers, who had been living in Mexico since August last year, only just flew back after the outbreak was reported there. However, three students, two of them girls, were found to have cold-like symptoms

Bamrasnaradura Institute director Dr Preecha Tantanathip said, as of 2am yesterday, one had a high fever of 38 degrees Celsius, which later dropped to 36.5 degrees, while the other tested at 31.5 degrees. The boy, who has been isolated, is suffering from a stuffed nose.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry yesterday tightened measures to control the spread of the virus by installing another 32 infrared thermal scanners nationwide.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said he will today ask the Cabinet for funds to purchase another ten scanners after Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kajornprasart, who is overseeing the outbreak-prevention operations, instructed him to tighten measures.

He added that even though there have been no outbreaks in the Southeast Asian region, people travelling to and from neighbouring countries would be checked at the borders. Travellers will have to provide every detail of their trip and anyone arriving from Mexico would have to undergo a physical examination.

While Witthaya was waiting to welcome the teachers and students who flew in from Mexico on Sunday night at Suvarnabhumi Airport, he noticed that immigration officers were not wearing surgical masks to protect themselves, and were asking all travellers to take off their masks for identification.

"From this incident, I realised that immigration officers are not cooperating in the prevention of an outbreak," he said. "It appears as if the immigration officers don't know that they need to prevent infections."

He said he would instruct the Disease Control Department's director general Dr Somchai Chakrabhand to train all immigration officers, especially those at the borders, about disease control and prevention.

Somchai said his agency had already trained immigration officers at southern border checkpoints, including Betong, Sungai Kolok, Padang Besar, Sadao, Malang and Hat Yai, about preventive measures. However, so far only Sadao and Padang Besar have infrared thermal scanners.

Meanwhile, Witthaya has instructed medical workers across the country to be prepared for an outbreak and increase their capacity to diagnose and treat the A(H1N1) influenza. Preecha said his institute had reserved 62 beds people who might be infected with the virus.

In related news, Food and Drug Administration's secretary-general Dr Pipat Yingseri said the Mexican embassy had sent an official letter announcing that pork and pork products from Mexico were not contaminated by the A(H1N1) virus and were safe for consumption. However, he said, Thailand does not import pork and pork products from Mexico or Canada, where 200 pigs were infected by the A(H1N1) virus.

He also said that sausages imported from the US were safe for consumption.

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