On February 7th, 2011, New Zealand news sources announced that a Wellington woman was dead and two others were seriously ill after returning from Chiang Mai, Thailand (a popular tourist destination in Northern Thailand). Food poisoning was initially suspected by authorities.
A press conference was held in Chiang Mai on March 8th after it was discovered that the New Zealand native had stayed at the Downtown Inn, in a room neighboring that of a Thai woman who was found dead on February 3rd. In addition, on February 19th, the bodies of an English couple were discovered inside the hotel. While Thai authorities stated that the investigation was ongoing, it was suspected that the deaths were coincidental.
On March 12th, additional information revealed that the tourist from New Zealand was infected with an echovirus, and likely died of myocarditis. Autopsies on the English husband and wife showed block arteries in both, which may have contributed to their deaths.
Travel warnings for Chiang Mai were issued via media outlets on March 18th after the deaths of an additional two people (an American woman and a French woman) were linked to recent travel to Chiang Mai. It was also stated that the two died suddenly and had similar symptoms as the previous victims, including myocarditis. Speculations began to circulate about the possibility that the deaths were linked to eating at local food markets.
On March 21st, the death toll rose to seven when it was discovered that a 59 y.o. male, Canadian tourist that had used facilities at the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai, died in early January. As of March 23rd, no confirmation of a common viral infection or other cause has been given. The victims’ families continue to demand answers.