I came down with the flu at the weekend and as it has been four days now I decided I should go and visit my local doctors. I am never keen on visiting them as I always come away with a large bag of drugs. But, as bird flu is still in the headlines and I did have chicken a few times last week (tom yum gai, khao mun gai and last night tom kha gai) I thought it was better safe than sorry.
I went to the clinic at Taiban rather than the local hospital as I find it quicker. Also the doctor speaks some English. His first question after I told him I had the flu was whether I had eaten any duck. I said no, I had eaten chicken. “Chicken?” he asked. Yes, chicken I said. “Have you eaten any duck?” he asked again. No. I said. But I had eaten some chicken. “What kind of duck?” he said. No, chicken I said. I was going to continue in circles like this for a while but I wasn’t feeling well. So, I just switched to Thai instead. “Oh, aren’t you afraid of bird flu?” he asked.
I think the first time bird flu was in the headlines everyone was really worried. People stopped eating chicken. Which is big news because Thai people love their fried chicken. So much so that KFC is far more popular here than McDonalds. In fact, McDonalds decided to fight back by adding more chicken to their menu. Finally the chicken scare blew over and Thaksin was seen on national t.v. eating fried chicken. Everything went back to normal.
The second and third rounds of bird flu didn’t get so much attention. People had already gone back to eating chicken and no-one seemed to be worried. Certainly we could see that the chicken guy around the corner was continuing to do good business. However, the khao mun gai (chicken on rice) vendor for some reason packed up and left. Not sure why but maybe people preferred to have their chicken well cooked and deep-fried.
It is true that there have been some deaths in Thailand due to the bird flu. Also, some unconfirmed reports of maybe bird flu jumping between humans. However, the risks are still very low for the general public. From what I have read in the newspapers, the only people catching bird flu so far have been people with close contact with chickens (either on a farm or at a butchers in the market). So, I am not that worried at this moment.
The doctor gave me four different kinds of medicine. For cough, fever, flu and some antibiotics. Enough to last a week. The total price of this, including the consultation, was only 300 baht. Quite cheap compared to Western standards and also very cheap compared to Bangkok hospitals. A month or so ago I went to a specialist about a swelling on one of my finger joints. She ran some tests, did an x-ray and gave enough medicine for 2 weeks. This cost more than 4000 baht! The doctors fee alone was 1000 baht. The second time I went back, her fee had been reduced to 500 baht and the total including medicine was about 2000 baht. Still expensive when you consider average teacher’s wages are 6000-8000 baht per month. That is why I always visit the local clinic first unless I think it is serious and then I go into Bangkok.
I’ll talk about the Bangkok hospitals that look like 5 star hotels another time.