Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thailand Swine Flu Precautions

Yesterday, while shopping and performing personal errands, we were able to observe some of the precautions that Thailand is taking in regards to the Swine Flu pandemic.

As of last week there have been 65 deaths attributable to Swine Flu with 21 just last week. To date there have been 8,877 cases of the disease up from 6,776 cases the previous week.

Upon my return to Thailand earlier in the month, I and all other arriving international passengers were "thermal scanned". We had to remove hats and eyeglasses as we looked into what looked like a movie camera as we walked towards the Immigration area. The area where the thermal scanning devices were located was staffed with medical personnel.

In a different area along the route to Immigration there was a medical receiving area for tourists staffed by medical staff.

There were also medical pamphlets ready available related to "Influenza A (H1N1)". The pamphlet gives some tips regarding the "Prevention of Infection". These tips are fairly typical - wash hand, avoid sharing the same glasses, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water and wear a mask if you are caring for ill patients. However there is one recommendation that we will not be following "Use common spoon when eating with other persons"

In Isaan, people eat using a common spoon in each serving bowl of food. If the dish is soup, everyone eats the soup out of a common large bowl or pot using a single spoon. Besides being a traditional way of dining, this practice is sometimes necessitated due to a lack of bowls and utensils. It also dramatically cuts down on the amount of things to be washed after the meal.

I suspect that the pamphlet meant to advise "Do not use common spoon ..." but the intended intent got lost in translation.

As we approached the entrance to the shopping mall, the door was opened by a security guard wearing gloves and a surgical mask. He and other guards performed this duty for all people entering and leaving the facility. Using guards to open and close the doors meant that patrons did not have to touch doors that could be sources of infection.

Upon passing through the doors into the mall there was a table and a bottle of alcohol gel for hand cleaning. There was a sign in Thai advising people to sanitize their hands to avoid infection.

We needed to go into the bank branch inside the mall and as is customary and typical, a security guard manned the door so there was no need for a customer to touch the door. Inside the bank on the table where you fill out your deposit or withdrawal documents, there was now an alcohol hand washing station. All but two of the bank personnel were wearing surgical masks.

Most of the stores inside of the mall had bottles of alcohol based hand sanitizers available for people's use. About 2% of the customers were walking around with surgical masks covering their nose and mouth.

This is all very interesting. In a normal year, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans die due to Influenza. The A (H1N1)strain this year is difficult to ascertain just how much a threat or danger that it is. When it first started out in Mexico the mortality rate seemed rather high. Now it seems that the mortality rate has settled down to a more typical rate for seasonal influenza. This is reassuring as long as the virus does not mutate to a more lethal strain.

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