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Diseases still rampant with influx
- Subject: Diseases still rampant with influx
- From: ausgeo@xxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 07:24:00
Subject: Diseases still rampant with influx of migrants
Date: 27 Apr 1997
Diseases still rampant with influx of migrants
BY MALIWAN YONGYUTH
THE Thai government has worked hard to rid infectious diseases such as
malaria, tuberculosis, syphillis, elephantiasis and leprosy from within its
borders. But with the recent influx of illegal immigrant labour from
neighbouring countries where such diseases are still rampant, such as Burma,
the threat of infection among the Thai population has intensified.
''Thai employers try to avoid registering their workers because all they are
concerned about is keeping labour costs down. But what they do not realise is
that these foreign workers can be disease carriers. They are not aware of the
importance of medical checkups for these people and could end up bringing the
risk of infection into their own homes," said Dr Saravudh Suvannadabba,
Director of the Ministry of Health's Filariasis Division.
Thailand has successfully reduced the infection rate of malaria in the
population to 0.2 per cent, tuberculosis to 0.13 per cent, syphillis to 0.005
per cent, elephantiasis to 0.002 per cent and leprosy to 0.006 per cent.
However, among illegal immigrants who have been inspected by the ministry, the
occurrence of malaria is 0.31 per cent, syphillis 0.11 per cent, elephantiasis
0.04 per cent and leprosy 0.002 per cent.
''These figures are taken only from the immigrants who have registered. There
are still others out there who have not come. We assume that those who come to
us are confident that they will pass the medical examination because if they
fail they will be deported. Infection rates would be higher among those who do
not come for the registration and medical checkup," Saravudh said.
Saravudh said that field work results indicate a 20 per cent infection rate of
malaria among Burmese and two per cent for elephantiasis. ''Not to mention
other minor occurrences of diarrhea and polio," he said.
Those who register are not checked for polio, however, the division remains
cautious because those who under a medical checkup are adults and polio
usually only occurs in children.
''The rate of infection among those in the field and the ones who come for
checkups is very different and warrants attention," he said.
In the case of malaria, the infection rate along the Thai-Burmese border is
between 70 and 90 per cent. Therefore, the division is on alert to see if the
number of Thais along the border becoming infected starts to rise.
''Presently, we are very much concerned about the border areas because that is
where the majority of the illegal immigrants are working. They have not yet
penetrated into the major cities because of the regulations imposed on their
employment. If we did not impose such measures, we would have had more
problems by now."
Infection will spread to more Thais if proper attention is not paid to
improving the living conditions of illegal immigrants. However, Saravudh said
that it is very difficult for the government to reach theme because employers
try very hard to conceal them. ''They do not understand that we are trying to
help," he said.
''However, it is unfair to accuse illegal immigrants of being disease
carriers. The public must understand that infection can spread simply because
these people are more likely to be carrying such diseases than Thais."
Scarce medical resources are also being further stretched by their increasing
numb, he said.
''Say we have 100 beds in a hospital, 60 beds might be taken up by Burmese
immigrants. It is a dilemma because if we do not treat these people they might
spread new strains of diseases to Thais. But if we spend our resources on
them, the locals will complain," said Saravudh.
Elephantiasis is of particular concern. The strain from Burma may not show up
on a regular blood test, while symptoms may not show for as long as nine to 10
years after infection, by which time it is much too late to cure it.
''I urge employers to register their workers and bring them in for a checkup
because the stakes are much higher if they don't. They may benefit from cheap
labour in the short term but could also suffer ill consequences all their