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No Panic Required: Patong Joins Swine Flu 'Club'

Saturday, June 13, 2009
THE DISCOVERY of possible cases of swine flu (H1N1) among groups who frequented nightclubs in Patong on Phuket and in Pattaya has boosted the numbers of suspected cases in Thailand significantly, in line with experience elsewhere.

Taiwan's Center for Disease Control, with the Ministry of Education and the Tourism Bureau, has advised travel agencies to refrain from taking tour groups to Thai bars and clubs.

However, with 74 countries now declaring cases and with some of those countries already having thousands of cases, Thailand has simply joined the club.

There is no cause for alarm or panic. Local tourism industry spokespeople say the H1N1 virus should have a barely perceptible effect on the tourism industry.

This is because in a pandemic, almost the entire globe can expect to be affected. While each new case once made headlines, millions can shortly expect to catch the virus.

Fortunately the H1N1 virus has proven to be less severe than first thought, and the rapidity of its spread appears to be already slowing in two early-case countries, Mexico and the US.

Phuket authorities seem to be acting at a local level without regard to the global picture.

According to the Thai News Agency, ''entertainment establishments on Phuket Island were asked during a meeting on Saturday to close their businesses for five days so that the owner would have enough time to clean and spray their places.

''The request was made after an employee of one entertainment centre was found to have contracted the virus, becoming the first case to have been reported in the popular resort.

''Blood tests on 26 employees of Phuket nightlife and other entertainment venues on the island believed to have come into close contact with Hong Kong tourists who returned home recently and were diagnosed with the virus, will be known later Saturday.''

In Hong Kong, where health authorities have closed schools for two weeks, children are now mingling with others in public markets and places such as Disneyland, or at their parents' workplaces.

Of the current tally of 37 confirmed H1N1 cases in Taiwan, 15 were infected when traveling in Thailand, chinapost.com.tw reports.

Another student who returned from Thailand was verified as carrying the virus, the CDC announced yesterday.

This seems to indicate that the virus has gone under-reported in Thailand.

The World Health Organisation yesterday elevated its swine flu alert to its highest level of six.

But WHO pointed out that while this indicates the expansion of the virus, its effects remain far less severe than early death rates in Mexico indicated.

All along, WHO has warned against broad alarm, with the expectation that one in five people worldwide will probably eventually catch the disease.

Travel bans or limits on border crossings would be inappropriate and unnecessary, WHO has said.

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