Sat 11 Jul 2009, Mon Jit, IMNA
As cases of the globally-discussed A(H1N1), or Swine Flu roll in, the response in Mon State is one of forced ignorance and non-belief.
In nearby Thailand and Rangoon, surgical masks are ubiquitous as a preventive measure for fear of the A(H1N1) flu; in Mon State, however, the masks are relatively uncommon.
A doctor from the Government Health Department said that hospitals sell 3 masks for 100 kyat, an affordable price, but he added “nobody cares about that and I don’t see people using masks. Also we have not found A(H1N1) in Mon state.”
However, not all local villagers agree with this assessment. One Mudon woman said, “Yes, many of people have the [A(H1N1)] flu…we are afraid of it.”
Instead of wearing a surgical mask, she added, she prefers to go to the Buddhist temple to pray for health and good luck. “But if it happens, it is ok, because everyone must die when the day comes…I don’t like to wear masks.”
Educating the Mon State residents has proved to be a challenge for the government.
The same Government Health Department doctor told IMNA that they provided public safety education in the cities, but cannot go to each of the many villages. That is why people in villages are uninformed, he added.
“Mon state has flu and people have died from A(H1N1). I strongly believe [it is] because many people travel abroad and [also to] Rangoon; also in Rangoon they have found A(H1N1),” said Nai Soe, a Mudon motorbike salesman.
Villagers know about the flu from Thai television, and are afraid, but they have no knowledge as no one comes to provide education, said a villager from Kyaikmayaw.