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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thai athletes to get advice on avoiding the Zika virus

THAILAND is on high alert for the Zika virus as athletes and staff are set to travel to the Olympic Games in Brazil.

Zika infections have been detected in Thailand, but the situation here is thought to be well under control. "There are now just one or two cases in two provinces, namely Udon Thani and Beung Kan," Deputy Prime Minister Admiral Narong Pipatanasai said yesterday, in his role as chairman of the committee on emerging infectious diseases.

He said his committee had discussed preparations to protect Thai athletes and staff who will attend the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

"They should be advised about how to protect themselves," Narong said.

His panel plans to raise the issue with the Olympic Committee of Thailand.
Some 46 athletes from the Kingdom have so far booked Olympic berths in 14 sports, but the figure is likely to rise as the country expects to get more spots in badminton.

Brazil is one of 58 countries and territories that have reported continuing transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes to date. Zika can cause birth defects, including a devastating syndrome known as microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains.

According to Agence France-Presse, nearly 1,300 babies have been born in Brazil with the irreversible defect since Zika began circulating there last year.

Brazilian authorities have confirmed that the Olympics will be held in Rio in August, as scheduled. This is despite a petition to the World Health Organisation (WHO) signed by more than 100 prominent doctors and scientists, who called for the event to be postponed or moved to another city.

Thai Disease Control Department director-general Dr Amnuay Gajeena said athletes would take preventive measures, such as by applying mosquito repellent power or cream.

"They will have to undergo health checks both before and after their Olympic Games trip," he said.

He believes that when the number of staff is included, it is likely that more than 100 Thais will head to Brazil for the huge sport event.

Asked about the situation in Thailand, Amnuay said eight villages in Udon Thani's Sang Com district were declared a "red zone" over the Zika threat because a man from the district was found to have contracted the virus. "His infection was diagnosed on May 22 while he was in Taiwan," he said. His office has stepped up moves to counter the disease in Udon.

Udon Thani public health chief Dr Smit Prasunnakarn said two pregnant women were found to have contracted the virus but showed no symptoms. "Ultrasound shows foetus development is normal. We will constantly monitor their conditions. Psychiatrists are also on hand," he said.

WHO has classified Thailand and the Philippines as countries with "sporadic transmission" of Zika, as opposed to most countries in South America and the Caribbean which have seen "increasing or widespread transmission." Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia have not made the list. Singapore last month became the latest country in Asean to be hit by the virus while Vietnam reported its first cases in February.
Source: The Nation
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