January 12, 2024
BANGKOK – Three major diseases — Covid-19, influenza, and dengue fever — could spread to the level of a pandemic this year, according to the Thai Department of Disease Control (DDC), which named 12 seasonal and group-specific diseases as under surveillance.
Department director-general Dr Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn said on Wednesday that they had compiled an estimates of the communicable disease situation in Thailand for 2024 based on current patients, mortality and spreading rates, in a bid to plan and implement suitable disease-control policies.
The department predicted that due to the constant mutation of the virus, Covid-19 could still become a pandemic in 2024, albeit with less severe symptoms as most people already have immunity.
Thongchai said the DDC would focus monitoring “608” vulnerable groups, namely seniors aged over 60 years, pregnant women, and those with eight chronic health problems (eg diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer). He advised people to wear a face mask when going to a public place, wash their hands regularly, and get vaccinated at least once a year.
The department reported 652,868 patients infected with Covid-19 in the past year with 848 deaths. It estimated that 2024 would see slightly lower patients at around 649,520.
As for influenza, which is also a respiratory disease like Covid-19 but with lower mortality rate, the department expects 346,110 patients this year, lower than last year’s 460,325 with 29 deaths.
Thongchai advised people to get an influenza vaccine once a year, ideally at the same time they get their Covid-19 vaccine.
The DDC estimated that patients with dengue fever — a communicable disease with mosquito as carrier — would increase to 276,975, from 156,097 patients and 187 deaths in 2023.
Thongchai said eliminating the sources where mosquitos could lay eggs, notably the still water surface in containers, puddles and marshes, would help reduce the chance of the disease spreading in the communities.
Besides the possible pandemic of three diseases, the DDC also named 12 diseases under a watch list in 2024 as they were either seasonal or spreading within specific groups. The department said it would increase monitoring of these diseases and implement suitable disease-control measures in the event of a spike in cases.
The 12 diseases are: hand-foot-and-mouth disease, measles, mpox, melioidosis, leptospirosis, streptococcus suis infection, zika fever, chikungunya, syphilis, gonorrhoea, AIDS, and tuberculosis.
To report a pandemic or inquire about health advice, contact the DDC hotline at 1422.