Health experts and authorities in Thailand are raising concerns about the surge in respiratory infections, including Influenza, during the current rainy season. The number of patients seeking medical assistance for respiratory infections has significantly increased compared to last year. Some attribute this rise to the government’s decision to no longer mandate mask-wearing since October 2022. However, despite the high number of reported cases, the death rate remains remarkably low, which raises questions about the accuracy of official reports.
During the week of September 10th to 16th alone, over 12,000 cases of respiratory infections were reported, surpassing previous years’ figures and setting a five-year record. Unfortunately, health officials have not provided detailed information on the number of hospitalizations or the specific types of infections involved, such as RSV, Adenovirus, Influenza, or COVID-19. Private hospitals in the country are also witnessing a surge in COVID-19 infections, leading to a scarcity of hospital beds designated for COVID-19 patients. Of particular concern is the increasing number of children contracting respiratory infections this time around.
Given that respiratory infections are primarily transmitted through the air, health officials are urging the general public to resume wearing masks and take additional precautions, including frequent hand sanitization and avoiding crowded settings. The government has instructed health facilities across the country to be adequately prepared to handle the growing number of respiratory infection cases. Parents are advised to quarantine their children if they exhibit symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, or fever. Schools are also encouraged to consider transitioning to remote learning if infection rates continue to rise.
In terms of SARS-CoV-2 infections, health officials have reported that the XBB.1.16 variant remains the dominant sub-lineage in the country. However, there has been a gradual increase in the EG.5.1 and HK.3 variants. It is worth noting that these variants and sub-lineages are said to cause only mild symptoms, although the credibility of these claims cannot be verified. Interestingly, health officials did not comment on the presence of the BA.2.86 variant found in wastewater samples in the country.
A concerning development is that some countries are now categorizing all COVID-19 infections and other respiratory infections, such as flu and RSV, together as respiratory infections. This practice may complicate the accurate assessment of the specific impact of COVID-19 in these regions. Additionally, excess death rates in Thailand remain high, and despite inquiries and concerns about this issue, there has been no public response from officials or local media.
In conclusion, Thailand is facing a significant rise in respiratory infections, including Influenza, during the current rainy season. The decision to stop mandatory mask-wearing may have contributed to the increase in cases. Despite the high number of reported infections, the death rate remains low. Health officials are urging the public to wear masks, practice hand hygiene, and avoid crowded places. Hospitals and clinics are being prepared to handle the growing number of cases, and parents are advised to isolate their children if they show symptoms of respiratory infections. The country is also monitoring the different variants of SARS-CoV-2, although the impact of these variants is reported to be mild. Concerns have been raised about the classification of all respiratory infections together, and the high excess death rates in the country remain unaddressed.