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Flu, anti-Aids drugs used to fight virus

Runners wear masks as protection against the toxic smog and coronavirus after they crossed the fishing line of Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2020 at Lan Khon Muang civic ground in front of City Hall on Sunday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Runners wear masks as protection against the toxic smog and coronavirus after they crossed the fishing line of Thailand Marathon Bangkok 2020 at Lan Khon Muang civic ground in front of City Hall on Sunday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Doctors have confirmed a combination of flu and anti-retroviral drugs commonly used to treat Aids patients is effective in treating patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The finding was confirmed by two doctors from Rajavithi Hospital, Kriangsak Atipornwanich and Assoc Prof Subsai Kongsangdao, at a media briefing in Bangkok on Sunday.

The use was declared a success after a Chinese woman who displayed severe symptoms shortly after arriving in Thailand from Wuhan, China, showed signs of improvement about 48 hours after the drug cocktail was administered.

The 70-year-old tourist was first admitted to Hua Hin Hospital in Prachuap Khiri Khan. She was transferred to Rajavithi Hospital on Jan 29.

Upon finding the patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus, doctors decided to administer oseltamivir, an anti-flu drug that was also used to treat the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), in addition to lopinavir and ritonavir -- anti-retroviral drugs commonly prescribed to HIV-positive patients.

Dr Kriangsak said Chinese health authorities have already started using the combination to treat coronavirus patients.

"We checked and found that Mers patients were effectively treated with flu medications, so we added the anti-retrovirals with great results.

"After 10 days of positive readings, the test finally came back negative 48 hours after administering the medications. The treatment, as well as the recovery, is fast," he said.

Other patients will now be treated with the drug combination, as this combination has proved to be effective on patients with serious symptoms, they said.

At the media briefing, doctors from the Public Health Minister updated the total number of confirmed cases in Thailand to 19.

One patient has recovered, bringing the total number of treated cases to eight. Meanwhile, 38 more patients met the criteria for further screening and investigation, bringing the number of suspected cases up to 382, the briefing was told.

Separately, Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) commander Manat Wongwat said the RTAF is ready to provide a place to quarantine Thai citizens who will arrive back from Wuhan tomorrow.

"We have the personnel and resources and we are willing to support if requested by the government," ACM Manat said.

On Saturday night, Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had asked the government to use military premises to quarantine 64 Thais who will be flown home from Wuhan.

Lt Gen Kongcheep said the government has instructed state agencies to prepare quarantine areas to contain the outbreak, and that the Defence Ministry will consider which military units are well-equipped to deal with the situation.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman for the Royal Thai Army, said military medical personnel will be sent to check the health of the 64 Wuhan evacuees immediately upon landing.

Mr Anutin said on Saturday that a plane will be sent to coronavirus-hit Wuhan to bring Thais stranded in the locked-down city, after China agreed to let evacuation flights land.

Of the 161 Thais in the city and other areas of Hubei province, some 130-140 have registered to return home, Mr Anutin said.

Mr Anutin said on Sunday that a team of eight doctors will fly to Wuhan and will accompany the evacuees back to Thailand.

Necessary medical supplies will also be made available on board the plane during the flight, he said.

"After arriving in Thailand, the evacuees will be kept in quarantine for 14 days, in line with standard medical practices," said Mr Anutin, who chairs a newly-created national committee assigned to tackle the outbreak.

Later today, said Mr Anutin, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will chair a meeting of state agencies to follow up on the latest situation.

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