As the rainy season casts its shadow, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is raising the alarm over the widespread rise of respiratory diseases, primarily influenza. According to Dr Opas Kankawinpong, the resident secretary of the ministry, the number of patients grappling with these diseases has shot up exponentially since the mask mandate was lifted back in October of the previous year.
In hard numbers, between January 1 and September 16, an estimated 185,216 cases were reported. This translates to roughly 279.9 cases per 100,000 population. A tragic four lives were also claimed during this period. In fact, Dr Opas highlights that over 12,000 cases were registered in the week spanning September 10 to 16 alone. This rate surpasses that of the same period in the previous year and even shatters the average of the last five years.
To address this upward trend, Dr Opas has issued directives to public health offices scattered across the nation, laying out strategies to effectively manage and curb the increasing number of patients with respiratory diseases. The primary modality of transmission for these viruses includes droplets, direct contact between individuals, and shared items. Therefore, the ministry strongly advises the public to wear masks and limit contact with vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and children.
In an appeal to parents, Dr Opas insists on quarantining children at the first sight of respiratory disease-like symptoms, such as a cough or runny nose. He also advocated for schools to entertain the possibility of temporary closures if a significant number of students are diagnosed with respiratory diseases.
Adding to this, Dr Supakit Sirilak, head of the Department of Medical Sciences, identified that XBB.1.16 remains to be the predominant Omicron subvariant found within the nation’s borders. However, he warns that the EG.5.1 and HK.3 variants are swiftly gaining ground. He reported that the rate of these variants has surged by over 10% in a relatively short span of time. Thankfully though, most cases of these variants result in only mild symptoms.
In a nutshell, as the rainy season continues, so does the risk of contracting respiratory diseases. It’s paramount that individuals take preventive measures and adhere to the guidelines provided by health authorities to keep these diseases at bay.