Tuberculosis among migrants is increasingly becoming one of the largest public health problems in Thailand. Despite the widespread belief that migrants import the disease into Thailand, the reality is that when they first arrive in the country, migrants are often healthy. Many migrant health problems stem from their impoverished and unsanitary living conditions within Thailand.
An estimated 1.3 million migrants are unregistered. Being illegal means having no access to basic health services or to legal and social protection, as well as travel restrictions. Hiding and keeping a low profile are key to the survival of these individuals. This phenomenon has put migrants at particular risk to tuberculosis (TB).
The highly transient nature of such migrants, their poor working and living conditions and lack of access to health care for fear of deportation increase their chances of getting sick and dying of TB. As they are often on the move, it is difficult for them to complete the required minimum six-month TB treatment regimen. This failure to complete treatment makes them susceptible to drug-resistant strains of TB. As of 2011, there are estimated 1.7% new multi-drug resistant TB cases in the country, treatment of which can cost upward of US$5,000 per case.