Bangkok - Thailand will host a meeting of South-East Asian health ministers next week to discuss the threat of swine flu, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thursday.
The meeting is expected to be held May 7 to 8, Thai Public Health Ministry's deputy permanent secretary Dr Siriporn Karnchana said, although other sources said the date was not yet finalized.
Thailand is the current chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The government's efforts to host a summit between ASEAN and the region's six main trade partners - Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea - had to be abruptly cancelled April 11-12 after anti-government protestors stormed the venue for the event, raisings security concerns.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan first approached Cambodia to host the regional swine flu meeting, but Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly said Thailand would be a more appropriate host.
To date there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu, also called Mexican Human Flu or swine influenza A/H1N1, detected in Thailand or any other Asian country.
Nonetheless, the Thai government has been quick to put in place measures to hinder the possible spread of the deadly virus by foreigners visiting the country or Thais who have recently visited Mexico, where the human-borne virus originated, or the US.
Thermal scanners have been placed at the country's four main international airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Samui Island and 17 public hospitals have been put on alert to treat any people showing acute flu symptoms.
In Asia, the swine flu scare brings back memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) scare of 2003, that started in China and had a devastating impact on Asia's tourism industry as Westerners avoided traveling to the continent.
"It's like going back to 2003 and putting the shoe on the other foot," Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) chief researcher John Koldowski said.
"Here we're seeing something that originated in America, has moved to Canada and jumped over to Europe, but so far, nothing has surfaced here," he added. (dpa)
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