Thailand puts itself on alert against Monkeypox. Officials underline that there is no need for the public to panic at this time as the Ministry of Public Health begins screening for the disease which has not yet been declared a threat under the Communicable Disease Act 2015 but is being treated as one of interest that warrants further investigation.

Thai authorities are ramping up a screening process for the Monkeypox disease in respect of foreign tourists using an RT-PCR test which is in production together with incoming passenger declarations which will be coordinated through the country’s Thailand Pass online registration regime for foreign travellers. Visitors from Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal are particularly to be examined by officials at the Ministry of Public Health in response to advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enhance screening and surveillance against any possible threat posed by a new variation of the disease which, in the last week, has been detected in up to 20 countries where it was never endemic before.

Details of the new screening process at all international airports in Thailand were given on Wednesday by Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the Head of the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health. In two weeks, this may also include a new RT-PCR test for Monkeypox which is in development at Mahidol University at Ramathibodi Hospital. Travellers from Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal are to be more closely inspected along with other passengers from 17 designated at-risk countries.

The Thai government is expected to have an RT-PCR test kit within two weeks which will be used to test incoming passengers to the kingdom who, since the beginning of the week, are being screened for the Monkeypox disease on arrival at the country’s main airports.

On Wednesday, Dr Wasun Chantratita of the Centre for Medical Genomics at the Faculty of Medicine of Mahidol University at Ramathibodi Hospital told reporters that the test is being developed from samples taken from infected cases in Belgium and Portugal.

RT-PCR test will be used in the nationwide screening process in operation at all international airports in the kingdom being coordinated with Thailand Pass

Test results will, however, take about two to four days to be made available.

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the Head of the Department of Disease Control, has revealed that the new screening process on entry into Thailand will be linked with the Thailand Pass online entry regime which is to be retained for foreigners entering the country from June 1st.

Mask mandate to be scrapped in Thailand from mid-June in a boost for the foreign tourism sector

From the beginning of the week, all international airports have begun screening passengers with the Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-ocha on Wednesday, ordering ramped up precautions at the country’s borders concerning the legal importation of animals and human trafficking activities.

Thailand responding to advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is underlining a need for vigilance as it investigates the latest outbreak

Thailand has introduced screening for the Monkeypox virus following advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is encouraging increased surveillance against the disease which was the subject of an emergency meeting in Geneva last Friday after cases of the infection normally found in Africa, began to appear in the western world.

On Tuesday, Dr Chakkarat Pitayowonganon, the head of the Epidemiology Division at the Department of Disease Control within the Health Ministry, was tasked with organising the kingdom’s response to this threat.

He warned that cases of the disease are expected to spread from Europe even though no case has been found so far in Thailand.

He revealed that officials at Thai airports are now monitoring incoming passengers from 17 at-risk countries for the disease, in particular passengers from the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.

Top medical official expects the disease to spread from Europe as the United Kingdom confirms 71 cases

Authorities in the United Kingdom reported on Tuesday that 71 cases had been detected there out of 237 across the world including Australia and America.

Experts suggest that health officials are trying to track the source of this outbreak to explain the reason for the change that has caused the disease to be found outside Africa.

Initial reports suggested that a gay sauna in Spain was the subject of enquiries together with a rave party involving international participants.

Officials warn public against panic and highlight that this disease is both less infectious and less severe than smallpox which was eradicated in 1980

Health officials across the world are emphasising the need to be careful about causing panic in response to the development and point out that Monkeypox is a disease that is less severe and infectious that the smallpox virus which was wiped out worldwide by 1980.

Officials also believe that most people from the western world, up to 1980 and countries who participated in a United Nations vaccination drive against smallpox including Thailand up to 1977, are likely to have been vaccinated for smallpox which should be effective against the Monkeypox threat including the severity of symptoms.

Commenting on the outbreak this week, top Thai virologist, Dr Yong Poovorawan said that the cases being detected in Europe are of a less severe strain than normally found in Africa.

Infection similar to a case detected in Singapore in 2019 and may be spread through sexual intercourse

He also revealed that authorities were investigating to see if the current spate of virus infections were being transmitted through sexual intercourse while also revealing that the current infection being investigated is similar to a case detected in Singapore in 2019.

Dr Chakkarat Pitayowonganon of the Department of Disease Control has announced that his department has set up an Emergency Operation Centre to coordinate the ministry’s response to the situation which would monitor developments both inside and outside Thailand.

On Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Public Health, Satit Pitutacha confirmed that each international airport will be tasked with taking precautions against the disease.

‘Each airport has a disease control unit and officials will intensify measures against Monkeypox by being more vigilant,’ he explained.

Sexually transmitted disease clinics to be trawled seeking evidence of Monkeypox infection in Thailand

He also revealed that Thai officials would be running checks on cases of skin diseases in the health system as well as cases presented at sexually transmitted disease clinics in a concerted effort to detect the disease which has yet to arrive in Thailand.

Dr Chakkarat said that a new card will be required to be filled by incoming passengers which will be linked to a QR code system and passengers being processed through airports will be questioned on their responses. They will also be observed for any signs of the disease on arrival in Thailand.

This would particularly apply to passengers from at-risk countries including the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain, at this time. 

Incoming tourists with symptoms to be tested for Monkeypox according to draft protocols issued

Tourists who show signs or symptoms of the disease will be asked for samples and if they test positive, they may be hospitalised, he disclosed.

Thailand however has not yet listed Monkeypox as a dangerous communicable disease to activate special powers under the Communicable Disease Act 2015.

However, it has been designated as a disease warranting further investigation.

The disease, if contracted, results in fever and chills with a later rash developing along with blisters.

Dr Chakkarat underlined, at this stage, that the current variation that has spread to countries that are normally endemic for the disease is a milder version of the African strain of Monkeypox which has a 6% mortality rate compared to 1% for the variation currently being investigated.

Thailand awaiting further information from WHO

Officials in Thailand while activating a comprehensive response to screen for the infection at airports, are also assessing the potential threat from the disease and are awaiting clarification from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Yong Poovorawan has urged the Thai public to stay calm and says that a case of Monkeypox has not been detected in the kingdom since 1970 but agrees that vigilance, monitoring and further research into the current outbreak is an essential response.

‘We encourage you all to increase the surveillance of Monkeypox to see where transmission levels are and understand where it is going,’ Sylvie Briand, a Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

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