Thailand's first case of monkeypox goes missing

Thailand's first case of monkeypox goes missing

A search has been launched for a 27-year-old Nigerian man after lab tests proved he has Thailand's first confirmed case of monkeypox, Phuket deputy governor Pichet Panapong said yesterday.

Phuket provincial health officials yesterday clean a condominium where Osmond Chihazirim Nzerem, a Nigerian man confirmed to have Thailand's first recorded case of monkeypox, had stayed. (Photo: Department of Disease Control)

Mr Pichet made the announcement at a media briefing in company with other senior officials, following reports in Thai media that Nigerian national Osmond Chihazirim Nzerem had "fled" the hospital where he was being treated.

Officials have clarified that Mr Nzerem was not admitted as his condition was not considered severe. He was advised to self-quarantine in his condominium room.

They confirmed that Mr Nzerem went to a private hospital on July 16 a week after he developed a fever, coughing, a sore throat and runny nose. He also had a rash and lesions on his genital area that spread to other parts of his body and face.

The doctor at the hospital learnt that Mr Nzerem visited entertainment venues in Patong and had close contact with some tourists as well as engaging in unsafe sex several weeks before he fell sick.

The doctor suspected Mr Nzerem may have been infected with monkeypox so a medical sample from the patient was sent for verification. A PCR lab test by the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Centre on Tuesday found Mr Nzerem had monkeypox. This was later confirmed by tests arranged by the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

Later the hospital tried to contact Mr Nzerem to tell him to receive treatment at state-run Vachira Phuket Hospital, but he could not be contacted as he had turned off his mobile phone, said Dr Kusak Kukiartkul, chief of the Phuket public health office. Officials went to Mr Nzerem's apartment in Kathu district to arrange treatment but he was not there.

It is understood that Mr Nzerem arrived in Thailand on Oct 21 last year and has overstayed his visa by almost four months, Dr Kusak said.

The monkeypox detected in Mr Nzerem was the African variant, A2, which was not severe, he said. Disease investigation officials searched for 154 people including six high-risk people who had close contact with Mr Nzerem. None of them were found to be infected, Dr Kusak said.

Pol Col Thanet Sukchai, superintendent of Phuket immigration, said Mr Nzerem was believed to still be in the Patong beach area of Phuket.

Department of Disease Control chief Opas Karnkawinpong said monkeypox is not serious and can be treated.

There have been 15,848 cases found in 72 countries since May this year.

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