The Department of Disease Control is keeping a close eye on a new respiratory virus that resembles Sars.
The department has issued a warning to hospitals nationwide instructing them to follow a World Health Organisation directive to closely monitor patients who have respiratory illness, particularly those who come from the Middle East.
The WHO reported a case of a coronavirus infection on Sunday.
The case involved a 49-year-old man from Qatar who was sent to a hospital in London to be treated for a severe respiratory illness.
It was confirmed later as coronavirus, a new virus from the same family as Sars, which spread globally in 2003.
Earlier, another case was reported in Saudi Arabia.
A 60-year-old Saudi man died after being infected.
Dr Kamnuan Ungchusak, a senior health expert at the department, said the department is reviewing measures to deal with any possible virus outbreak but said information at this stage is sketchy. The measures include laboratory preparations to test virus samples at the Department of Medical Science and Siriraj Hospital, disease treatment guidelines, and quarantine practices.
"We have no vaccine or drugs to treat the coronavirus," he said.
"We do need to have an effective quarantine system to prevent the disease spreading," Dr Kamnuan said.
About 15% of people infected with normal flu virus have been detected with an old strain of coronavirus.
He had told hospitals which routinely provide medical services to patients from the Middle East to closely monitor symptoms related to Sars.
About 10,000 visitors from the Middle East come to Thailand every year.
The ministry plans to distribute to tourists a manual on how to identify viruses.
Regarding the 15,000 Thai Muslims who plan to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Haj pilgrimage, he said the department has been in touch with Saudi Arabia asking officials there to help monitor the disease.
"Based on the information we have, it is too soon to say if the new virus strain is severe, or how serious it is," Dr Kamnuan said. "We do not have enough reports of disease infections."
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin