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Thailand Announces First MERS Case in 2015, Fears of Outbreak

mersThai medical authorities have confirmed the country’s first case of MERS virus infection in 2015. After four days of investigations, an elderly man was diagnosed with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome.

The 75 years-old Omani had arrived in Bangkok on Monday, with an Oman Air flight, and was supposed to be treated in a private hospital for heart ailments. But the medics discovered the man was also infected with MERS. This triggered a state-wide alert and search for more than 100 passengers who were on the same flight as the infected man.

Yesterday, the public health minister, Rajata Rajatanavin, refused to name the hospital where the possible infection was first suspected and added that the patient had been put in quarantine at an infectious diseases institute outside Thailand’s capital.

Authorities’ quest to identify the other passengers who were onboard the Omani flight proved to be fruitless so far, and it was not clear how could everyone be traced. Nearly 60 people who came into contact with the patient have been identified, among them medical staff at the private clinic in Bangkok.

“We advise the public not to panic because the patient and his family members were separated since the beginning. (…) Our system is ready and we are monitoring the cases closely,” Thailand’s Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin said in a press conference.

The man’s two sons, who had accompanied him from Oman, are among those being already monitored by medical staff. The two Omani nationals are considered at risk because of their proximity to their father. The two have already been tested and results are expected to be announced in the following days.

News of the MERS case in Bangkok came the same day as South Korea announced their 24th death caused by the syndrome. South Korean health officials told the media there were now 166 people infected, while thousands are still in quarantine.

The MERS case brought about fears of an outbreak, and no few people remembered the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak which began in China and killed around 800 people worldwide.

Until now, most of the MERS infections have been recorded in Saudi Arabia, where more than 1,000 people have been diagnosed in the past three years, and more than 450 have died. The disease has no cure, so far.

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