AEC could bring infectious diseases, warns expert
Thailand will be at risk from breakouts of several infectious diseases, particularly diphtheria, when it enters the Asean Economic Community (AEC), an expert in disease control warned yesterday.
When it launches in 2015, the AEC will allow free flow of labour across all Asean countries including Thailand.
Renowned virologist Dr Prasert Thongcharoen said yesterday that diptheria had disappeared from Thailand for nearly 20 years, but breakouts had been detected recently in many Thai provinces because of high numbers of people travelling to and from neighbouring countries.
According to the Disease Control Department, 62 people caught diphtheria last year, with six deaths as a result. Thais are vaccinated against the disease as babies, but the immunity only lasts 20 years.
"The immunity level against diphtheria is weakest in people aged between 20 and 50 years old," Dr Opart Karnkawinpong, head of the department's Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, said yesterday.
Prasert said the Public Health Ministry was now considering whether to give the diphtheria vaccine to Thais aged 20 years and above.
"Vaccinations may be given to medical workers first," he said.
Other diseases to look out for during the advent of the AEC, said Prasert, were whooping cough, mumps, polio, rubella, measles and Meningococcal disease.