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Mystery Thai illness strikes another tourist

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2011 at 3:22 am

Mystery Thai illness strikes another tourist
JASMINE FRANKLN, QMI Agency
First posted: Thursday, April 14, 2011

Megan Jefferies, 26, of Seattle and husband Mike are happy to be home and alive. The couple had to cut their world-travels short after Megan experienced similar symptoms that has killed an Edmonton man and several other tourists following contact with a Thailand hotel since January. (Supplied Photo)

Another Thailand traveller was treated in hospital after spending time in Chiang Mai, where a number of tourists have mysteriously died since January.

Megan Jefferies, 26, of Seattle, Wash., became violently ill April 4 along with two friends after eating and using restrooms at the Night Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on March 30.

The Night Market is next door to a hotel plagued with mysterious tourist deaths since the beginning of this year, including Edmontonian Bill Mah, who was found dead after using the hotel’s facilities Jan. 26.

Mah’s symptoms began with severe chest pain keeping him up through the night, a close friend earlier reported.

He later died of “suspected natural cause,” after being diagnosed with acid reflux in a Thailand hospital and sent home.

Jefferies and her husband, Mike, had to abruptly cut their one-year travel across the world short, after two weeks in Chiang Mai resulted in Jefferies making two emergency hospital visits – “the worst week of their lives.”

She was treated in a Chiang Mai hospital after suffering chest pains and flu-like symptoms April 8. They were staying at another nearby hotel.

“My hands and legs were shaking and really sore, and later Mike told me that my eyes had rolled back in my head and my lips were blue. We were really scared,” she said.

After arriving at the hospital, staff ran tests including an EKG and concluded it to be either food poisoning or acid reflux.

While in the hospital, the couple ran a Google search and discovered the seven cases in the area of tourists with similar symptoms since January – all of whom died after experiencing similar symptoms.

They returned to the hotel from the hospital, where Jefferies again collapsed and began vomiting in the elevator.

The couple packed their bags and headed for the airport to catch the next flight home but once in the car, she began convulsing again.

They went to the hospital instead.

“All that could go through my mind was the stories of the recent victims,” said Jefferies.

Medical staff hooked her up to an IV, ran another EKG and did blood tests before sending her home.

Jefferies’ mom, Laura Deck, contacted QMI Agency from the United States after reading previous related news reports.

“Whatever this is, has done damage to people’s hearts,” said Deck.

Upon arrival back into the U.S., Jefferies saw a doctor to follow up on her symptoms and has an appointment with an infectious disease specialist.

“I’m feeling exhausted, relieved and sore. I am hopeful that the source is identified soon so that no one else becomes ill and so that people can continue to enjoy the wonderful city of Chiang Mai without worrying,” said Jefferies.

“The doctors in Thailand said it was probably food poisoning and dehydration. In Seattle, we haven’t received all of the test results, but initial diagnosis was infectious enteritis. I had an x-ray and an EKG, and my heart looks normal. The doctor also referred me to follow up with an infectious disease specialist.”

Other cases

News reports across the world have been covering the mysterious deaths in Chiang Mai – the northern Thai capital.

The death toll now stands at seven between January and March of this year – all with similar circumstances.

George, 78, and Eileen, 74, Everett, of England, died simultaneously of a heart attack inside their Downtown Inn hotel room on Feb. 28.

Sarah Carter, 23, of New Zealand, died in hospital March 3 after she and two friends became ill in the same hotel.

That same day, 47-year-old tourist guide Waraporn Pungmahisiranon, was found dead in a room located next door to Carter.

American Soraya Pandola, 33, also died after experiencing similar symptoms as Carter. However, like Mah, Pandola was not staying at the Downtown Inn and lab results for the cause of death have not been received. Her husband Tony has demanded the Inn be closed and that he receive the lab reports.

A French woman was identified as being the sixth person to die with similar circumstances.

Evidence of the Coxsackie virus was found in Carter and the Echovirus was found in another victim. Four of the deaths have been linked to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that masks itself as flu symptoms or chest pain resembling a heart attack.

Officials respond

The World Health Organization told QMI Agency that the cases are under watch.

“This event is being investigated by authorities in Thailand,” said Gregory Härtl, communications of WHO global Art and Response team.

“The investigation is still on-going and no conclusions have been reached. I cannot tell you much more than that right now.”

Freelance journalist Andrew Drummond in Thailand has been closely following the cases and reported the Thailand Department for Disease Control said so far there are no links between the deaths of cases examined of people visiting Chiang Mai in January and February, and no link to the Downtown Inn.

Jasmine.franklin@sunmedia.ca

– with files from Andrew Drummond

http://www.torontosun.com/news/world/2011/04/14/17995416.html

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