Phuket is grappling with a concerning outbreak of diarrhea, affecting both children and adults, with nearly five hundred cases reported. Health authorities are investigating the cause, pointing to water and gastrointestinal infections as likely culprits. The public is urged to prioritize hygiene practices, including consuming cooked, hot, and clean food and water.
On June 8, 2023, the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office, in collaboration with relevant agencies, held a press conference to address the increasing cases of gastrointestinal and waterborne diseases, leading to widespread diarrhea among both children and adults.
Dr. Kusak Kukiattikul, a Phuket Provincial Public Health Doctor, highlighted that with the onset of the rainy season in Thailand and Phuket, the cool and humid climate creates favorable conditions for the proliferation of various pathogens. Notably, acute diarrhea caused by norovirus, rotavirus, and E. coli bacteria is rampant. Contaminated food, drinking water, and ice are the main sources of infection. Dr. Kusak further explained that between June 6 and 8, 2023, the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office received reports of an average of 50 cases per day in government hospitals and 100 cases per day in private hospitals, affecting individuals of all ages across multiple areas. Instances of diarrhea among students in several schools have also been reported.
Most patients admitted to hospitals presented symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in some cases, fever. The disease has been observed in all three districts of Phuket.
To combat the situation, the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office, along with other agencies, has undertaken several actions:
- Health facilities, both public and private, have been informed to closely monitor and report any contagious diseases related to food and water within their respective areas of responsibility.
- Educational institutions at all levels have been instructed to implement surveillance activities and preventive measures against communicable diseases originating from contaminated food and water. Students are advised to consume freshly cooked, clean food, avoid raw and stale food, and practice proper hand hygiene before eating and after using the restroom.
- Public awareness campaigns are being conducted to educate residents about preventive measures and hygienic practices. The emphasis is on consuming freshly cooked, clean food, avoiding raw or undercooked food, and maintaining proper hand hygiene. Individuals who fall ill are urged to take leave from work or school to prevent the spread of infection.
- Collaboration with local administrative organizations involves monitoring food sanitation standards in restaurants, food stalls, markets, and street food venues. Public areas are being regularly cleaned and disinfected. The wastewater and water supply systems of these organizations are also under strict supervision.
- Regional waterworks are working closely with authorities to monitor the water supply system, ensuring that the remaining free chlorine value at the end of the pipe falls within the acceptable range. Regular checks are being conducted to ensure continuous monitoring.
- Establishments involved in producing drinking water and ice are being thoroughly evaluated and monitored for safety. Inspections are conducted to assess sterilization processes, production controls, and employee hygiene. Measures are being taken to prevent contamination during ice transportation and minimize the risk of contamination.
- Surveillance efforts include collecting samples of water, ice, drinking water, feces, and vomit for pathogen detection (results pending).
To prevent diarrhea, the public is advised to adhere to the principle of “cooked, hot, clean” by consuming freshly cooked food, avoiding raw food, and drinking clean, uncontaminated water. People should scrutinize details on labels when purchasing tube ice and ensure that FDA marks are present. All overnight food should be heated before.