Thailand declares national monkeypox alert after emergency meeting

Image from The Nation Thailand/ANN.

BANGKOK, July 24 (The Nation Thailand/ANN): Thailand on Sunday upgraded its monkeypox alert to the national level after an emergency meeting of health agencies and the public health minister.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul called the meeting after the World Health Organisation on Saturday declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

Anutin said monitoring and control of monkeypox in Thailand will be taken over by the Public Health Ministry’s emergency operations centre.

Anutin said the meeting had also discussed the timeline of Thailand’s first confirmed monkeypox case.

On Tuesday, lab tests confirmed that a Nigerian man hospitalised in Phuket had contracted monkeypox. He then fled via Sa Kaew province to Cambodia and was arrested there on Saturday.

Anutin said health chiefs at the meeting believed the Nigerian national had not spread the virus to others over the past month, so Thailand was still safe.

He said that disease control officials around the country were working with border checkpoints to screen travellers for monkeypox. Travellers from at-risk countries were being monitored tightly, he added.

The Medical Services Department assured the meeting it had enough smallpox vaccine in stock to protect residents of Thailand. The vaccine is reported to have been in cold storage for 40 years, but the department said it was still viable.

It also assured the meeting that the country had sufficient medicine and facilities to treat patients in the event of a monkeypox outbreak.

Anutin said universal Covid prevention measures were also effective against monkeypox, which was a slower-spreading disease.

“There is no need for people to panic as monkeypox virus does not spread rapidly like Covid,” he said.

“Measures to lower risk from Covid can also be used [for monkeypox], including wearing masks, washing hands with alcohol gel and social distancing, as well as avoiding crowded areas.”

Anutin said monkeypox spreads via sexual activity, so people should protect themselves in the same way they do against HIV.

The meeting also appointed Medical Services Department specialist Dr Naruemol Sawanpanyalert to explain various preventive measures to the public.

Anutin said ministry medical experts would meet on Monday to discuss preventive measures against monkeypox and guidelines for hospitals.

Meanwhile, Phuket health officials said they have tracked down another 19 people who came into close contact with the infected man. The 19 at-risk individuals were traced to six locations or services used by the Nigerian national.

The Phuket Public Health Office said two of the 19 had tested negative for monkeypox virus while test results for the others would be known in a few days. - The Nation Thailand/ANN

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