Thai culture is killing Thais

It’s rare that stuff related to my job makes news, but that’s what happened just now. If you follow Thai news, you may be aware of the recent botulism outbreak in the northern province of Nan.

What the news tell you is that about 150 people got down with botulism last week, and that health officials traced the outbreak of this deadly disease to canned bamboo shoots consumed at a temple fair. They also say that botulism is such a rare disease that vaccines have to be imported from other countries, including the US and Canada.

It’s actually not the microbe that’s the problem, but the toxin it produces. Botox is a favored bioterrorist weapon, next to anthrax. But terrorists are not the ones responsible for this outbreak. Not even the microbe. The real culprit is Thai culture. To see why, let’s go beyond the news.

I dug up a CDC report of a botulism outbreak in 1998. It happened in Nan, many people got sick from eating canned bamboo shoots, and vaccines had to be imported from other countries. That was eight years ago.

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