Police investigating the mysterious deaths of three Thai workers in their sleep think the cause of death might have been raw meat, a newspaper said yesterday.
The three male workers died in the past month, sparking panic among their fellow 400 Thai workers in the Tong Yang Group in Tainan City. Some believe the trio were possessed by ghosts, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported.
The workers, aged 27, 40 and 37, died in the early hours of April 21, May 7 and on Sunday respectively. The first two died in their sleep while the third made gasping sounds in his sleep and was rushed to hospital, where he died.
Autopsies on the three bodies showed no obvious cause of death, but police said they suspected the workers died from trichinosis, which is caused by eating raw or undercooked meat from pigs or other animals infected with the larvae of a parasitic worm. The disease is common in Thailand, where raw pork, pig liver or fish are often eaten.
Local government labor officials said, however, they suspected they had died from inherited diseases or overwork.
Panic among Thai Tong Yang Group workers prompted the company to call in Thai Buddhist monks to exorcise ghosts from the workers’ dormitory, but several Thais, too frightened to continue living there, have terminated their contracts and returned to Thailand.
There have been reports of Thai workers dying in their sleep in other countries. The suspected causes included overwork and eating raw pork or glutinous rice cooked in plastic pipes, a substitute for cooking glutinous rice in bamboo as it is done in Thailand and Taiwan.
The initial symptoms of trichinosis include nausea and diarrhea, but after the worms are released into the body, symptoms can range from headache, fever, chills, coughing, eye swelling and joint and muscle pain to severe neurological problems, including respiratory paralysis.