Monkeypox alert upgraded

THE kingdom 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 disease control officials around the country were working with border checkpoints to screen travellers for monkeypox.

Travellers from at-risk countries were being monitored, he added.The Medical Services Department assured the meeting it had enough smallpox vaccine in stock to protect residents of Thailand.

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-19 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 medical experts would meet to discuss measures against monkeypox.

Meanwhile, Phuket health officials said they have tracked down another 19 people who came into close contact with the infected man.

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/ANN

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