Bt33m to treat patients
160 people in Nan province suffering from rare and severe form of illness
The Cabinet yesterday approved a Bt33-million fund to treat more than 160 people in Nan province hit by a rare and severe type of botulism.
Clostridium botulinum is so dangerous it could be used as a biological weapon, experts say.
The outbreak prompted the import of the anti-toxin used to treat the illness for the first time. One dose costs more than Bt100,000.
Five more people suffering from botulism were admitted to a hospital yesterday, raising the number of patients in Nan to 161. Of the 118 still being treated, 86 are in Nan Hospital, 31 in Ban Luang Hospital and one in Wiang Sa Hospital.
Public Health Minister Pinij Charusombat said more doses of the anti-toxin had been ordered.
Patients who had received the serum were now recovering, but more patients needed it, Pinij said.
Deputy minister Anutin Charnveerakul said about half of the patients who were suffering from muscular weakness and intense stomach pain needed the serum.
Ban Luang Hospital director Dr Hatai Panyadilok said his hospital rushed three patients to Nan Hospital yesterday morning.
"Their symptoms deteriorated and they had to be put on respirators. Nan Hospital has the anti-toxin serum," Hatai said.
Pinij said the ministry would buy more respirators. Wiang Sa Hospital director Dr Suradej Boonvej said his hospital had already sent five patients to Nan Hospital.
Wiang Sa Hospital had just one patient who was stable, he said.
All of the patients became ill after a merit-making feast in their village last week when they ate dishes containing preserved bamboo shoots.
Pinij said public-health chiefs in all provinces, especially in the North and Northeast where such dishes are popular, had been told to alert residents they can prevent the illness by cooking their food thoroughly.
"Toxicity tests should also be conducted to ensure food safety," he said.
Dr Christopher Braden - an epidemiologist with the Centre for Disease Control in the United States - said he and Thai researchers would study the outbreak and treatments.
"I have never seen such an outbreak before," Braden said.
Nan public-health chief Dr Pisit Sriprasert said the outbreak had drawn intense interest.
Pisit said officials met every evening to evaluate and plan treatments. "The information about what we have done can be very useful to the medical field, both at the national and international levels," he said.
Nan Governor Parinya Panthong has declared Bang Luang district where the outbreak occurred a "disaster-hit" zone.
The leftover bamboo-shoot dishes were being tested, Parinya said. "We are going to determine how the bamboo shoots became contaminated," he said.