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Top Five Medical News Stories From Southeast Asia – 12 January

#1 – Thailand Seeks Citizens’ Opinion on Marijuana Law

Thailand is seeking public feedback on a draft bill that aims to outlaw recreational cannabis use. The move comes after the country decriminalised cannabis in 2021. Subsequently, that led to a burgeoning industry with dispensaries, spas, restaurants, and festivals. However, initial regulations were rushed and left loopholes for recreational use. This new bill, driven by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s concerns over drug abuse, aims to restrict cannabis use strictly for medical and health purposes. The public has until January 23 to provide feedback before the bill proceeds to the cabinet and parliament for further review.

#2 – Warmer Temperatures in Singapore Lead To More Heat Injuries

In Singapore, rising temperatures pose a growing risk of heat-related illnesses and worsen chronic conditions. Researchers at the National University of Singapore study heat stress effects in a climatic chamber, simulating extreme heat conditions. Heat-related illnesses increase during hotter months, and conditions like eczema worsen with heat. Vulnerable groups, including the elderly, infants, and outdoor workers, face higher risks. A climate study predicts that Singapore could experience extreme heat for most of the year by 2100. That would lead to more frequent dehydration and heat stroke cases.

#3 – Petra Jaya Hospital in Kuching, Malaysia Back on Track

Photo credit: Bernama

The Petra Jaya Hospital in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, previously delayed and categorised as an “ailing project,” is now on track for completion in August 2025. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad revealed that construction has reached 54% completion. It is currently 90 days ahead of schedule. Although the original completion date was set for November 2016, progress indicates the possibility of an earlier completion. After construction, an additional three to four months will be required to equip the hospital with the necessary medical equipment.

#4 – Acute Gastroenteritis Outbreak in Baguio, Philippines

Baguio City is experiencing a significant increase in acute gastroenteritis cases, with 350 documented since December 21, 2023, and 1,500 incidents reported. This rise in cases, often caused by viral or bacterial infections, has prompted a public health alert. The local government is investigating potential water contamination sources, including water delivery companies and wells. The city health officer advises food establishments to use purified water, and the community is urged to report suspected cases. Precautionary measures, including a health advisory against using service water or ice from food outlets, have been implemented.

#5 – Indonesia Increasing Polio Vaccination in Outbreak Areas

The Indonesian government is escalating polio vaccination efforts in outbreak areas, including Klaten, Central Java, due to a resurgence linked to reduced vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin highlighted the importance of restoring optimal vaccination coverage. Following a polio case in a six-year-old in Klaten, the local health agency plans to vaccinate over 118,600 people starting January 15, 2024. The campaign, also encompassing Central and East Java, will be implemented in two phases to curb the spread of the disease.

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