Bangkok HOWTO Thailand

More on H1N1 in Thailand — the atmosphere in Bangkok, and how to follow H1N1 developments

A quick note about H1N1 here in Thailand. Infections continue to spread — the Nation newspaper tells today us that there are now 518 confirmed cases, up from just 16 last week. And the Bangkok Post has a breakdown by location within Thailand.

Nevertheless, here in Bangkok — as you might imagine — life continues as usual.

On Tuesday I spent some time talk to people on the street about H1N1. No one was concerned. One woman selling grilled meat told me she wasn’t afraid of H1N1 at all. A motorcycle taxi driver said that he wasn’t worried, even though he has a small child in school. A woman selling lottery tickets told me that she had no fear of H1N1, and besides, she doesn’t eat pork anyway, having switched to fish recently because it’s healthier. (There were — and apparently continue to be — misconceptions that H1N1 can be contracted by eating pork.)

For further H1N1 news, I suggest consulting the following:

You can also follow me on Twitter, as I’ve been relaying some H1N1 news there periodically.


H1N1 spreads in Thailand

H1N1 infections in Thailand have increased markedly over the past few days. Confirmed cases are now at 310, up from just 16 last week.

Here are three recent stories:

  • Nation: “Confirmed Type-A (H1N1) flu cases rise to 310

    The confirmed case of Type-A (H1N1) influenza cases in Thailand has risen to 310, Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodi announced Tuesday.

    He said the Public Health Ministry will Tuesday hold a meeting of doctors nationwide to make preparations to cope with the more outbreaks.

    Despite the increase of the cases, Manit pleaded the public not to panic.

  • Bangkok Post: “109 new flu cases

    The number of A(H1N1) influenza cases in Thailand had risen to 310 after 109 new cases were reported on Tuesday, Public Health permanent secretary Prat Boonyavongvirot said.

    Dr Prat said the Ministry of Public Health will now hold a press conference on the H1N1 outbreak everday at around 11am to prevent any misleading information.

    He said the number of H1N1 flu cases would likely increase, but it was not unusual since other countries also encountered the same problem.

  • And earlier today, there was this story in the Bangkok Post: “Officials muzzled on H1N1

    The Public Health Ministry is asking provincial health and hospital chiefs not to speak to the media about influenza A (H1N1) cases in an effort to calm disquiet over the extent of the spread of the virus.

    Ministry spokesman Suphan Sithamma said a letter was being sent to senior health figures warning them not to say anything about the number of flu cases and details about the patients. All information was to be filtered through health authorities in Bangkok.

    The ministry’s hush-hush order came as the number of flu cases passed the 200 mark and experts expected it to rise further.


H1N1 in Thailand: two confirmed cases

Some news today about H1N1 (swine flu) in Thailand:

Reuters: “Thailand says two flu patients visited Mexico

Two Thais who returned from Mexico have been confirmed with H1N1 flu but have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said on Tuesday.

Eight other Thais who were in contact with the two infected people were released after being quarantined for a week and show no signs of the virus, he said.

“We have found two confirmed cases of the flu, which was contracted abroad. They have recovered,” Witthaya told a news conference.

He gave no details of the two patients and did not say when or where they had travelled in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak also known as swine flu.

Nation: “Thailand confirms first two swine flu cases” ((Add “Influenza 2009” to the Thailand swine flu nomenclature list.))

Thailand on Tuesday confirmed its first two cases of Influenza 2009 in patients who had returned from Mexico.

The country becomes the 31st country that was hit by the virus so far.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said tests carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States had confirmed the A(H1N1) virus in samples from the two Thai nationals.

“There are two confirmed cases of A(H1N1), both of them contracted from Mexico,” he said.

Bangkok Post: “PM confirms first swine flu case

A laboratory test had confirmed that a Thai who returned from a trip overseas had swine flu, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Tuesday.

Mr Abhisit said the A(H1N1) virus was found in a sample taken from the patient.

“The patient has fully recovered and has returned home,” he said.

He did not name the country the patient visited, and refused to confirm if the patient had been treated at Chulalongkorn hospital.

(Previous post: “A conversation about H1N1 with a Bangkok taxi driver.”)


A conversation about H1N1 with a Bangkok taxi driver

I got into a taxi here in Bangkok on Sunday. When I looked at the driver’s face in the rear view mirror, I noticed he was wearing a protective facial mask. I didn’t think much of it.

I told him where I was going, and then he turned around and looked at me.

“Where are you from?” he said.

“I’m from America,” I said.

“Not Mexico?” he said.

“No,” I said. “I’m from America. But I live here in Bangkok.”

“Okay,” he said. ((We spoke in Thai, in case you’re wondering, though this was a very simple conversation.))

Then he took off his mask and explained that he was afraid of catching swine flu. And that he was glad I wasn’t a Mexican. He said he’d been asking all of the foreigners who got into his taxi if they were from Mexico.

I assured him that I was not Mexican, that I had not been infected with H1N1, and — despite the fact that it has nothing to do with swine flu — that I don’t eat pork. ((I do, in fact, eat pork, but he was quite nervous, and I wanted to put him at ease.))

He smiled and seemed relieved. ((The latest news on H1N1 and Thailand, for the record: There have still been no confirmed cases. A suspected case recently turned out to be the common flu.))

(Related post: “Thailand swine flu nomenclature update.”)


My TV story on ASEAN meeting to discuss H1N1

Here’s a TV story I did yesterday for Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia. The story is about a meeting of health ministers from the ASEAN +3 nations here in Bangkok. The officials discussed strategies to prevent the H1N1 virus from spreading.

Go to the link above and click on the video below the image on the right side of the page. You can select a low-res version of the video if it’s slow to load. The story should be viewable on the site for the next few days.


Thailand swine flu nomenclature update

A quick note on swine flu nomenclature: the CDC is now referring to the flu as “H1N1 flu.” And the WHO is calling it “influenza A(H1N1).”

As far as American newspapers are concerned, the WSJ prefers “A/H1N1 swine flu,” while the NY Times is sticking with “swine flu.” At the Washington Post, it’s still “swine flu,” as well. ((I’ve yet to conduct a survey of other media, such as TV and radio.))

As I noted last week, the Nation, one of Bangkok’s English-language newspapers, made the switch from “swine flu” to “Mexican human flu.” However, the paper is now using the term “A(H1N1) flu.” (From a story today: “14 Thais from Mexico test negative to A(H1N1) flu.”) ((Oh, and in case you’re wondering: there has not been an outbreak here.))


Swine flu, Thailand, and nomenclature

There has so far been no outbreak of swine flu here in Thailand. Local media yesterday reported one “suspected” infection in a Thai national who had traveled to Mexico earlier this month. But it now appears that the woman has ordinary flu.

This Nation story about the case contains an interesting snippet:

The swine influenza, under a department directive, is now called the “Mexican human flu” in Thailand in order to make people more aware about its origin and the risk of a human-to-human transfer. The word swine has been removed so people are not scared of consuming pork.

“Mexican human flu”?

The New York Times has more on the issue of swine flu and nomenclature:

Government officials in Thailand, one of the world’s largest meat exporters, have started referring to the disease as “Mexican flu.” An Israeli deputy health minister — an ultra-Orthodox Jew — said his country would do the same, to keep Jews from having to say the word “swine.” However, his call seemed to have been largely ignored.


The Mexican ambassador to Beijing, Jorge Guajardo, has been outspoken this week in suggesting that the disease did not originate in Mexico. He said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the disease was brought to his country by an infected person from somewhere in “Eurasia,” the land mass of Europe and Asia.

Ambassador Guajardo said in a telephone interview that his government had been told by American and Canadian experts that the genetic sequence of the virus pointed to Eurasian origin.

“This did not happen in Mexico,” he said, adding, “It was a human who brought this to Mexico.”

But flu specialists in Asia said that the new virus probably did not make the jump from animals to people in Asia.

(Thanks to BL for the NYT link.)