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Monday, March 21, 2011

Sad Times in Chiang Mai

It saddens me to have to make this post, but in light of seven recent unexplained deaths in Chiang Mai, I must warn others to take precautions in this city. Six of the victims were tourists; one was a Thai tour guide. Four were staying at the Downtown Inn on Loi Kroh Road near Charoenprathet Rd., and another used the pool facilities there, tho was not staying in the hotel. Their symptoms initially indicated food poisoning, but myocarditis (enlargement of the heart) was determined as possible cause of death in at least three, with Coxsackie B virus cited in one of those. Additional tests are being conducted and final results will take time. The WHO and various other health authorities have been brought in, tho the Thai officials are playing down the deaths in a deceptive attempt to counter any negative effects to tourism.

Personally, I consider this a public health issue and consequently of concern for everyone in Chiang Mai, but for visitors I recommend avoiding the Downtown Inn, and other hotels in that area. I also recommend avoiding eating in the Anusarn food court and restaurant area. Japanese food has been mentioned in two of the deaths, tho no specific restaurant cited. It is never a good idea to eat uncooked seafood in unairconditioned venues in the tropics- always avoid sushi and sashimi street food. Try to see your food being cooked and the conditions in which it is prepared. Make sure hot food is hot, not lukewarm or room temperature, especially rice, which is a great incubator for bacteria. Wash your hands before handling food or eating. Drink bottled water. Chiang Mai is still a great place to visit, but as in any travel destination, especially in the tropics, be aware and take precautions.

UPDATE 29 May, 2011: There has been a lot of news regarding this, but none of it with anything decisive. This latest report at least appears to show serious intent by the Thai authorities to learn more about these deaths and establish cause(s).

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