From: Jody Lanard <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, September 12, 2016
Over the years, Thailand officials have done some of the very worst risk communication about disease outbreaks of all the countries I follow. Right now, it is almost a relief to find Zika risk communication even worse than Florida's.
I look forward to posting notes on some of the best recent Zika risk communication -- from Singapore, not surprisingly -- in the near future. Good examples are better teachers than bad ones.
But this bad example is based on typical usually false assumptions that underlie much bad risk communication: That the public is freaking out; that the public is too stupid to understand new information; that the public trusts the officials who are contemptuously trying to over-reassure them.
Article from Bangkok Post, with highlighting and annotations in red added. Re-paragraphed to highlight comments.
[Photo caption: Photo did not copy] After 22 new cases of Zika virus were diagnosed in one day in Bangkok's central Sathon area, the Public Health Ministry urges calm and claims to have the situation under control.
[And the government is controlling the situation how?]
The Public Health Ministry has played down fears of a Zika virus outbreak in Thailand, saying the disease is already common in the country.
[!!! I can just as easily picture the Ministry, with a straight face, playing down fears by “saying the disease is very uncommon in the country.”]
Opart Karnkawinpong, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, insisted Sunday the mosquito-borne Zika virus has become widespread since the infection was first recorded in Thailand in 2012.
[He has “insisted?” People are going to have trouble believing it is widespread? How does the government know it has become widespread? When did they know that? Did they hide it from the public?]
He asked the public not to panic as Zika was not deadly or severely contagious.
[Okay; technically, not usually "contagious": sexual spread is contagious spread, but it isn't that common. Mosquito transmission is not called "contagious". But how about "infectious?" Would he agree that Zika can be "severely infectious?" How infectious would it have to be to be "severely infectious"? Some tropical locations have had 25% or more of their populations infected within a year of the first known case.]
[This is an example of trying to mislead (in this case, to over-reassure) without lying. "Severely contagious?" No. "Severely infectious", in Aedes aegypti environments? Often.]
[What would the DD-G think was a sign of Zika panic? How would he know it if he sees it?]
Dr Opart's comment came after 22 new cases of Zika, including a pregnant woman, were reported in Sathon district this week. The woman is believed to have contracted the virus from someone who had recently travelled overseas.
[If Zika is widespread in Thailand, why do they think she got it from a traveler?]
Another 30 pregnant women nationwide have been infected with the virus. Dr Opart said all pregnant women and their unborn babies were being closely monitored by medical teams and public health officials. Of them, six have given birth to healthy babies.
[So far, the article doesn’t explain why pregnant women are a focus. Does the Thai public already know why pregnant women are being emphasized in this story?]
Methipoj Chatametheekul, director of City Hall's Communicable Disease Control Division, said the symptoms of the 22 Zika patients were not severe. They will be quarantined for the next 30 days.
["Quarantined?" Why, and under what conditions? Air-conditioned housing? Or, no possility of sex? If it is common in Thailand, why is anyone being quarantined? (Not that quarantine is likely to help in an Aedes-rife environment. And not that quarantine would be needed in a non-Aedes-rife environment.]
A check-up will be offered to pregnant women in Sathon district while more than 30 people in the district exposed to the disease through the patients [that implies sexual] must undergo blood tests.
[Why? If Zika is "widespread" as stipulated (via mosquito transmission) in Thailand, why must these contacts (non-pregnant persons? presumably asymptomatic?) undergo blood tests? What will they do with that information? Advise no sex for a period of time? Warn their sexual partners, if they can find them?]
City Hall also declared Sathon district and adjoining areas as Zika-precaution zones.
[Meaning what? What precautions will be taken or recommended? Is this because City Hall does NOT think Zika is already widespread in Thailand?]
If no new infections are reported in the areas within a month, the precaution will be lifted, Mr Methipoj added. Also on Sunday, public health permanent secretary Sophon Mekthon claimed Zika was not a new disease, despite recent publicity, as it is found in Thailand and other Asean countries. He said no Zika fatalities have been recorded.
[Not true. Maybe he means, “In Thailand, where we have until now identified precious few Zika cases at all.”]
Its symptoms are less severe than those of dengue haemorrhagic fever and patients can recover with proper treatment, he said.
[Except for affected neonates and some Guillain-Barre patients…and besides, nearly all patients can recover with no treatment whatsoever.]
However, pregnant women who develop Zika have a chance of giving birth to babies with microcephaly and other brain defects.
[Deep into the story, the whole reason for the story is mentioned.]
He said eradicating the breeding grounds of common house mosquitoes such as stagnant water would help fight the virus. Public campaigns to eradicate mosquito larvae have worked well [as measured by what outcome? As measured by whom? Reduced adult mosquitoes in traps? Reduced incidence of dengue?] although the rainy season has seen a resurgence of extensive amounts of larvae. In Nakhon Ratchasima, Dr Teerawat Valaisathein, director of the Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Office 9, said Zika infections have been found in seven provinces including Bangkok recently.