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Wednesday MediaWATCH: 'Pandemic' Alarm Grows

Wednesday MediaWATCH: 'Pandemic' Alarm Grows

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

A new daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective. Reports from national and international media, with translations into English from Thai.

AFP news agency: Whatever you call it, it's alarming. Asia imposed measures to keep swine flu from spreading across the region after the World Health Organisation warned of a significant increase in the risk of a pandemic. The news agency reported that New Zealand confirmed three cases among 11 who are assumed to have caught the virus. Australia said it was probing 70 possible infections among those who had recently returned from Mexico or the US. South Korea reported a single case and Thai medical authorities placed a woman in quarantine in hospital for tests. ''Hong Kong said it was testing four people as queues formed outside pharmacies with residents, spurred by memories of the deadly SARS virus, stocking up on medical supplies to counter any potential swine flu outbreak,'' AFP reported.

The Nation Channel: Documents from doctors in Mexico and other countries where swine flu is confirmed should be carried by passengers arriving in Thailand, the Nation Channel says. Doctors will be stationed at Bangkok's international airport to check on arriving flights. Stringent hand-washing and personal hygeine is being recommended as a precaution. Restaurants and cafes in Mexico City have been banned from serving all food except takeaways in a bid to help prevent the spread of the swine flu virus. Schools across Mexico have closed and public gatherings are restricted, with more than 150 people believed to have died. Cases elsewhere are rising, though no-one outside Mexico has died.

Matichon: Three Thai investors from Phuket are being questioned by DSI over 500 rai of land on the east coast island of Koh Yao Yai that may have been misappropriated. The land is valued at 500 million baht. A second case with the same businesmen involves land in three provinces, Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga.

Straits Times: A South Korean woman has tested positive for swine flu in additional tests after travelling to Mexico, making her the first 'probable' case in Asia, the leading newspaper in Singapore reports. Across the region, suspected cases were also reported in China, Hong Kong and Thailand, amid fears that the virus could have spread far beyond worst-hit Mexico. South Korean authorities said final tests are still necessary to confirm whether the 51-year-old woman, who returned from Mexico on Sunday, has swine flu.

Bangkok Post: The psychological impact of the swine flu scare will affect sales in Thailand's 70 billion baht pork industry, although not to the same extent as the bird-flu outbreak in 2003, experts predict. Back then, more than 60 million birds were culled, exports of raw chicken fell to zero, and domestic consumption shrank by about 20 percent. As for the rest of the meal, lime prices have been soaring in recent weeks due to lower production because of a lengthy and severe spell of dry weather.

Reuters: With New York hardest hit, US swine flu cases rose to 65 in six states as President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.5 billion extra to strengthen the response to the outbreak. The US Centers for Disease Control said on its web site that the new total included 10 cases in California, two in Kansas, 45 in New York, one in Ohio and six in Texas.

Voice of America: SARS held Hong Kong in virtual quarantine for a few months in 2003, hardly anyone traveled. When they did go out, many people wore surgical masks. ''A similar scene is now playing out in Mexico, as swine flu grips that nation,'' the site says. Elaine Leung, a Chinese language teacher in Hong Kong, recalls weeks of being confined to her university dormitory. ''We were not stuck, we were free to move. But the point is there was no way that we can move. At that moment if we moved back home, then if we carried any virus that might affect our family we better stay where we're from, so that's our idea.''

etravelblackboard:''Lets not Turn this into SARS Mark 2,'' says a writer on the travel news site. ''The motto for the popular TV series Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was 'Don't Panic' and this motto should also be applying to the journalists and reporters of the mass media in response to Swine Flu. We are already seeing even ''responsible'' media outlets such as the ABC refer to Swine Flu as a PANDEMIC. This is scary stuff and a total misuse of the word.''

New York Times: Pork producers question whether the term ''swine flu'' is appropriate, given that the new virus has not yet been isolated in samples taken from pigs in Mexico or elsewhere. The new virus seems to be most heavily composed of genetic sequences from swine influenza virus material, but it also has human and avian influenza genetic sequences as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. An Israeli deputy health minister, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, said his country would use the term ''Mexican flu'', to keep Jews from having to say the word ''swine.'' However, his call seemed to have been largely ignored. Under WHO alert levels Phase 4 is characterised by verified human-to-human transmission of animal or human-animal flu virus, indicating greater but not inevitable risk of pandemic. Phase 5 means human-to-human spread of virus is confirmed in two countries in one WHO region and pandemic is feared imminent. Phase 6 is characterised by community-level outbreaks in at least one other country in second WHO region. ''This phase indicates global pandemic is under way,'' says.

Today's Must Read

BNet:Dealing with the slur on swine, a writer on food says: ''The disease has killed more than a hundred in Mexico, screwed with the stock market and sent Smithfield shares tumbling. But there's one group that so far doesn't seem all that affected by the pandemic: swine. The first known case in the outbreak occurred near a Mexican pig farm (partially owned by Smithfield) but neither the pigs nor the employees have shown any sign of being sick. So if no pigs are sick, why are we calling it 'swine flu'? The strain is, according to Wired, a 'novel combination' of two flu strains previously found in swine. But not everyone thinks that justifies the common name. Government officials in Thailand are calling it 'Mexican flu' and the World Organization for Animal Health has recommended the term 'North American influenza.'''

The Nation:The Pheu Thai Party has become a ''sinking ship,'' with the red-shirt led Songkran Day mayhem backfiring especially on their leader, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a source from the party is quoted as saying. Some Pheu Thai MPs in the Northeast, uncertain about the political direction, decided to join Newin Chidchob's Bhum Jai Thai party.

Reuters: Singapore shares fell for a third day to near three-week lows on Tuesday, leading declines in Southeast Asian stocks in a market unnerved by worries about the potential economic fallout from a swine flu outbreak.

Khaosod: Phuket tourist businesses will benefit from loans being provided by the government in the aftermath of the Bangkok airport blockade. About one billion baht is being made available. The contact point for applications is the SME Bank.

Kom Chad Luek: Pattaya parents have petitioned police to close game shops because the illegal dens are making their children steal money and behave badly. Thai students in Mexico say they have yet to feel the effects of swine flu and believe it can be controlled.

Thai Rath: Cabinet has signed a three billion baht deal to let all Thais have free water because of the economic downturn, the newspaper says. Big rains in northern Thailand are causing flooding.

Daily News: About 700,000 Burmese throughout Thailand, illegal and legal, are expected to register for work under a new scheme introduced by the Labor Department. Officials are keen to know precisely how many workers are involved. Those who register will have to stay with their present employers until 2010. The Ministry will conduct checks meantime and issue registration cards.

Phuketwan News

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Latest Phuketwan's Person of the Year, Airport GM Wicha Nurnlop, leaves the island on May 1 with checks for swine flu among his final tasks.
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Briton Fined 500 Baht for Being Impolite
Latest A British man whose case was widely noted when he was jailed after an encounter at Phuket Airport Immigration has been fined 500 baht in a Phuket court.
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Phuket's 'Endless Summer' Summit: April 30
Latest Postponed once because of a street blockade, a vital meeting of resort managers and tourism industry decision makers is set to proceed this week.
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Phang Nga Turns 200: May 1-May 7
Bicentenary Celebrations Phang Nga has recovered from the 2004 tsunami to celebrate its bicentenary with birthday events in May. More events are to come through the year.
Phang Nga Turns 200: May 1-May 7

Latest MediaWATCH

Tuesday MediaWATCH: Swine Flu Spreads, No Panic
Latest The world is urged not to panic or stop flying as health officials react to the threat of swine flu. And the hunt continues for fugitive PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
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Monday MediaWATCH: Thai Alert on Swine Fever
Updating Report Swine fever takes priority. National and international onlookers also feel Thailand's economic and political pulse in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Bangkok and Washington.
Monday MediaWATCH: Thai Alert on Swine Fever


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