Thailand — The Public Health Ministry is handing out 600,000 face masks to residents of haze-shrouded northern provinces.
The masks are being distributed as the haze in many parts of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, Phrae and Mae Hong Son, caused by people clearing forests for farming and naturally occurring blazes, is worsening.
Public Health Ministry spokesman Supan Srithamma said thick haze had blanketed eight northern provinces, posing a health hazard to residents.
Each haze-hit province had reported a 5-10% increase in the number of people with respiratory diseases, Dr Supan said.
About 2,000 people are seeking treatment for respiratory ailments every week in Chiang Rai. Those most at risk include the elderly and asthmatics.
He advised people who had inhaled smog to drink plenty of warm water.
The Meteorological Department yesterday warned northeastern and northern residents to brace for a tropical storm which could bring heavy rain and strong winds this week.
The storm was expected to hit the Northeast today and last until Thursday. It would bring heavy rain and strong winds which could help break up the haze in the North, the department said.
The Public Health Ministry is warning people to protect themselves against six illnesses which tend to flare up in the dry season. Permanent secretary for health Paijit Varachit said diarrhoea, food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid, cholera and rabies spread in hot conditions.
Disease Control Department chief Manit Theeratantikanond said 200,576 people across the country had sought treatment for diarrhoea, food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid and cholera in the first two months of the year.