First case detected in Thailand is a transit passenger who only spent two hours at Suvarnabhumi Airport and was asymptomatic. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Public Health remains vigilant and is putting in place plans for potential protocols if required.
Thailand on Monday confirmed its first case of monkeypox. A top official revealed that the case was that of a transit passenger travelling from Europe to Australia last week who was in the kingdom for only two hours. The news follows an announcement on Sunday that three suspected cases of the virus were, in fact, instances of the herpes virus.
Dr Chakkarat Pitayowonganon, the Head of the Epidemiology Division at the Department of Disease Control on Monday confirmed that Thailand has detected a verified case of monkeypox in connection with an Australian business class passenger who transited through Suvarnabhumi Airport last week.
This followed a false alarm in recent days when three suspected cases turned out to be cases of the herpes virus which is a similar virus to both smallpox and monkeypox according to officials.
Department of Disease Control boss confirms false alarm as three suspected cases turned out to be herpes
On Sunday, the Department of Disease Control Chief, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, confirmed that lab results had shown the cases to be herpes.
Dr Opas used the occasion to assure people that the monkeypox virus is quite unlike the airborne virus that drove the pandemic in Thailand for the last two years as it is less easily transmitted and requires extremely close contact.
‘However, initial information shows that monkeypox infection does not spread as easily as Covid-19. Transmission requires close interaction with a symptomatic individuals,’ Dr Opas told reporters.
Business Class passenger in transit from Europe to Australia last week tested positive for Monkeypox
On Monday, Dr Chakkarat did not identify the patient who tested positive for monkeypox at the airport except to say that he was flying from a European country and later continued his journey onwards to Australia.
The passenger is believed to have also been asymptomatic for the disease but a test conducted showed he was carrying the virus.
It is understood that he was in Thailand for just two hours as a transit passenger at Suvarnabhumi Airport before flying onwards to his destination in Australia.
As a result of this, 12 staff and passenger crew are in the process of being monitored for the disease although the top medical official felt that it was quite fortunate that the airline passenger was travelling business class as this allows for increased seating room and distances between passengers on the plane.
Ministry plans possible quarantine, other protocols as it screens for cases, no need for action now
‘The patient who travelled to Australia for several days was found to be infected. It’s good that the patient was sitting in Business Class sitting far enough apart. The infection is not easy to transmit. Must be really close if not far away because the germs do not float away by themselves. As in the transmission events in Europe, there must be close hugs and kisses, so this disease is not easily contagious. You have to come in direct contact with the patient during the period of illness,’ he explained to reporters.
He announced that the ministry was putting in place treatment procedures and rules concerning quarantine but there was no need, at this point, for any further action beyond monitoring the people who were in contact with the transit passenger for the next two to three weeks.
Major risk to Thailand are incoming travellers
Dr Chakkarat said the ministry was monitoring the disease and deemed the major risk of it spreading in Thailand as coming from people entering the country from abroad.
This was particularly so with high-risk countries which now include Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Canada.
The latest figures show 406 confirmed cases around the world with more countries being added to the list including Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Ecuador and Pakistan.
Currently, Spain, the epicentre of this latest virus, has the largest number of cases with 134 followed by the United Kingdom with 101, Portugal with 74 and Canada with 63.