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Phuket Opinion: China catches a cold

Phuket Opinion: China catches a cold

PHUKET: Health officials this week showed that they are well practised when it comes to trying to stave off an incoming infection from China. All the practice since the SARS scare in 2003 seems to have paid off. Since then, Thai health officials have had to raise shields for bird flu, swine flu and MERS.

opinionChinesehealthtourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 12 January 2020, 09:00AM


A passenger arriving on a direct flight from Wuhan is scanned for elevated body temperature at Phuket International Airport. Photo: PPHO

A passenger arriving on a direct flight from Wuhan is scanned for elevated body temperature at Phuket International Airport. Photo: PPHO

Thankfully Phuket health officials are well drilled on what to do to try to identify those infected as they arrive, and have the facilities and protocols to follow. However, at the time this article went to print no one had any idea how long the incubation period of this latest illness might be.

By the way, if you think bird flu and swine flu are dead, think again. In July last year an outbreak of 216 confirmed cases of swine flu in Myanmar were reported. Sixty-two of those people were dead in just one month; 40 of those in Yangon alone.

Bird flu continues to rear its ugly head, and the World Health Organization (WHO) makes it very clear that although the majority of infections are in animals, “Humans can be infected with zoonotic influenza viruses such as avian or swine influenza viruses.”

Then there’s MERS, which has been reported in 27 countries since 2012. While about 80% of human cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, in December three cases were confirmed in Doha, Qatar.

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That now puts the disease in a country that is one of the most popular transit points for Europeans travelling to Asia.

On that note, while officials in Phuket are monitoring only arrivals on direct flights from Wuhan, it is worrying that arrivals on connecting flights or flights from nearby areas in China are not being monitored.

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, which is home to some 58 million people. Right next door is Chongqing, which is home to some 30mn people. Both provinces are very popular for tourists wanting to see the Three Gorges Dam, and a simple search on Google Flights shows more than 79 direct and connecting flights for people travelling from Chongqing to Phuket to choose from.

With that volume of connecting flight options, and the loud noises being made about Mainland Chinese about to set a record number of cross-boundary trips this Chinese New Year holiday, it does beg the question whether our health services are prepared to handle the volume of arrivals from China expected to touch down in Phuket come Jan 25.

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