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Bangkok Post
Employers warned about tuberculosis: Foreign workers pass it on to Aids victims
Aphaluck Bhatiasevi Supamart Kasem - Tak
March 24, 2003
The Public Health Ministry has warned employers about the danger of bringing more tuberculosis to Thailand through foreign labourers - with Burmese workers being the most serious risk group.

The ministry checked about 450,000 legal migrant workers last year and found that about 3,500 had symptoms suggesting they had TB.

Most were Burmese nationals and ethnic minorities, and 527 were sent back home because their condition was serious.

Public Health permanent secretary Vallop Thaineua said the ministry was stepping up efforts to control TB in the three provinces most at risk - Tak, Samut Sakhon and Bangkok.

The return of TB has been reported in several countries, including Thailand. The disease has spread here because foreign workers turn up infected with it. It spreads easily to Aids victims, because they have a weakened immune system.

Thailand's ratio of TB patients is 70 people per 100,000 a year, while the ratio for migrant workers stands at 330 per 100,000.

NGOs and social workers estimate that Thailand has several million foreign workers, including those who illegally enter the country.

Dr Vallop said the number of illegal workers could compound the problem.

"If employers do not organise health checks for them, it could spread to Thais," he said. Also at risk were medical staff treating TB patients.

Charal Trinvuthipong, director-general of the Disease Control Department, said the only way to eradicate TB was to take patients immediately to hospital.

The extensive treatment took about six months and patients had to strictly follow a schedule of medicines prescribed by doctors.

Health officials yesterday launched a campaign in Tak to promote public awareness on the rising incidence of TB and its danger.

The launch was backed by employers, traders, volunteers and the World Health Organisation's border office. It was arranged to mark World Tuberculosis Day today.

The main focus will be on Mae Sot, Mae Ramat, Tha Song Yang, Phop Phra and Umphang, which are the districts bordering western Burma.

Two mobile X-ray units would be used in the campaign and children under six would be vaccinated against TB, Dr Vallop said.



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