A search has been launched for a Nigerian man after lab tests proved he has Thailand's first confirmed case of monkeypox, Phuket deputy governor Pichet Panapong said on Friday.
Mr Pichet said the 27-year-old man was being tracked down.
He made the announcement at a media briefing in company with other senior officials, following reports in Thai media that the man had "fled" the hospital where he was being treated.
Pol Col Thanet Sukchai, superintendent of Phuket immigration, said the man was believed to still be in the Patong beach area of Phuket.
Disease investigation officials had traced 154 people who were in contact with the man and they were beng tested. he said. So far, none were found to be infected.
Pol Col Thanet reassured the public that health officials could control the disease and there was no need for panic.
Dr Kusak Kukiartkul, chief of the Phuket public health office, said the monkeypox detected in the patient was the African variant, A2, which was not severe.
The man had sought treatment at a private hospital as an outpatient, he said. He was suspected to be infected with monkeypox and the hospital sent samples of his blood for lab tests.
He was not admitted as his condition was not severe. He was advised to self quarantine at his condominium room.
Around 6pm on July 18, the hospital tried to contacted the patient to receive treatment at state-run Vachira Phuket Hospital, but he could not be contacted as he had turned off his mobile phone, Dr Kukiart said.(continues below)
Dr Veerasak Lothongkham, director of Vachira Phuket Hosppital and Dr Kukiart Kukiartkul, chief of Phuket public health office, at a media conference on the monkeypox case on Friday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Police sent to find him found that he took a taxi from his condominium to Patong beach, where he checked in at a hotel. He left the hotel around 9pm on July 18.
The Department of Disease Control (DDC) on Thursday evening said it was confirmed the 27-year-old man, who had arrived in Phuket from Nigeria, had monkeypox.
Last week, he went to a private hospital with a fever, coughing, sore throat and runny nose, a rash and lesions in his genital area that spread to other parts of his body and face.
A PCR lab test by the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Centre found that the man had monkeypox on Tuesday. This was later confirmed by tests arranged by the DDC.
Police, immigration and disease control officials have been assigned to find him, reports said
Meanwhile, hospitals, sexual disease clinics and international airports have been alerted to strengthen screening procedures for monkeypox.
Department of Disease Control chief Opas Karnkawinpong said on Friday that monkeypox had been placed on the list of communicable diseases under surveillance.
Provincial communicable disease committees, including Bangkok, need to put in place a disease control plan, as required by the Communicable Diseases Act. All detected cases must be directly reported to the department.
He said the Public Health Ministry had ordered the implementation of a surveillance and screening system for people suspected of having the disease. The symptoms included high fever, headache, sore throat, blisters on the hands, feet and genitals.
All hospitals, sexual disease clinics and disease control officials at international airports must have a surveillance and screening system to detect the disease.
Patients must be quarantined during medical treatment. High-risk contact people should self-observe for symptoms for 21 days.
“Please be aware that the disease is not serious and it can be treated. It is not an airborne disease and is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, so please strictly follow our sanitary guidance on universal health prevention, including regular hand washing and avoiding close contact in public,” he said.
The warnings come after a 27-year-old Nigerian man in Phuket developed symptoms similar to Monkeypox disease. Lab tests on samples from the man by Chulalongkorn Hospital and the Department of Medical Sciences were positive. The results were submitted to an academic committee of disease experts, who confirmed the result on Thursday, July 21.
Dr Opas said two people deemed at high risk of infection had tested negative. They were advised to monitor their health closely for 21 days. Further disease investigation at two night entertainment places found six people developing fever. Tests on four of the six had already come back negative. All six were told to self-monitor for 21 days.
He said the disease transmission rate and severity is rather low compared with Covid-19. There had been 12,608 cases found in 66 countries since May this year. The outbreaks were mostly in the EU and US.
He said the department already had already made a reservation for monkeypox vaccine, but there was no need for a massive vaccination campaign like Covid-19 disease, because of the transmission rate and side-effects from the vaccine.
He the vaccine should not be for all, mainly for medical staff and people working with the disease in laboratories.
According to the World Health Organisation, monkeypox is still primarily found in homosexual groups.
Ninety-eight percent of reported cases globally "are among men who have sex with men -- and primarily those who have multiple recent anonymous or new partners," Rosamund Lewis, the WHO's technical lead for monkeypox, told a press conference on Wednesday. They were typically of young age and chiefly in urban areas, according to the WHO.
Monkeypox is endemic to Central and West Africa.
Examples of skin blisters caused by monkeypox.(Photo: United Nations)