Nation's first Mers case strikes

Nation's first Mers case strikes

Omani man, 75, quarantined after testing positive

Thai Airways International workers demonstrate the procedure of disinfecting an aircraft cabin to prevent the spread of Middle East espiratory Syndrome (Mers) at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Jiraporn Kuhakan)
Thai Airways International workers demonstrate the procedure of disinfecting an aircraft cabin to prevent the spread of Middle East espiratory Syndrome (Mers) at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Jiraporn Kuhakan)

The Public Health Ministry has confirmed the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) virus infection in the country as medical authorities gave assurances they will do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin said Thursday a 75-year-old man from Oman has tested positive for the deadly virus.

The man, whose identity has not been revealed, was admitted to a private hospital on Monday for heart disease treatment.

This prompted hospital staff to take stringent measures to prevent any possible spread of the Mers virus. Samples of phlegm taken from the patient were tested several times before it was confirmed that the patient had contracted the virus.

The patient was transferred to the Public Health Ministry's Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi's Muang district Thursday morning.

The man has now been quarantined at the institute. His condition remains stable, Dr Rajata said.

Upon the man's arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport, he had no fever, but he began coughing and had difficulty breathing when he was admitted to the private hospital, the minister said. 

Dr Rajata said authorities are now monitoring 59 people suspected of coming into contact with the patient during and after his journey to Thailand on the aeroplane.

They include three of his family members who travelled with him, passengers who sat near him on the plane, cabin crew, medical staff at the private hospital and two taxi drivers.

The family members have been invited to stay at the institute, Dr Rajata said, adding that authorities will contact others to seek updates on their health condition.

Dr Rajata urged the public to remain calm because the patient has now been quarantined and is under close observation.

Prasert Thongcharoen, a professor emeritus who is an adviser to the Disease Control Department, said the patient is an Omani national and made a living as a fisherman there. Camels are thought to be carriers of the virus but there are none in his home town of Jalan. 

The man told doctors he had avoided contact with camels, although he said he drank camel's milk, said Dr Prasert, who chairs a committee of experts on virology and epidemiology at the department. The man arrived in Thailand on Monday on Oman Air flight WY0815. His family checked into a hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 3.

Dr Prasert gave assurances that every effort will be made to contain the spread of the disease.

"We are confident we can prevent the disease from spreading," he said.

Thanarak Phaliphat, director of the Epidemiology Bureau under the Disease Control Department, said authorities will regularly telephone those who came into contact with the patient and will ask them to stop work temporarily.

Next week, authorities will visit each of them again and continue to monitor their condition for another two weeks, Dr Thanarak said.

Apichai Mongkol, chief of the Medical Sciences Department, said the private hospital that admitted the patient sent liquid samples from the patient for several lab tests at four different universities, before it was confirmed the man was infected with Mers.

Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government is confident the Public Health Ministry will be able to contain the virus.

The ministry has followed steps to control and prevent the spread of the virus, Maj Gen Sansern said, adding that efforts will be made to ensure the patient receives the best possible treatment.

Flight Lieutenant Pratana Pattanasiri, THAI's vice-president overseeing aviation safety, security and standards, said the airline had set out seven strict measures to deal with the Mers virus, including the screening of passengers before checking in, and observing the health conditions of passengers during their journeys.

The airline is also disinfecting air­line cabins and mo­nitoring the hygiene of airline staff, he said.


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