Skip to main content

Omani man quarantined in Thailand with deadly MERS virus

Thai authorities trying to locate 218 passengers and crew and others who had contact with patient diagnosed after arrival from Oman on Friday
A poster informing visitors about MERS at an infectious diseases clinic in Thailand (AFP)

An Omani man has been placed in quarantine in Thailand after testing positive for the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, Thai health ministry officials said on Sunday.

The 71-year-old man arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Oman on Friday night and was subsequently tested in two hospitals before being transferred to an infectious diseases specialist facility and isolated from other patients, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Thailand's public health minister, said.

A relative who was travelling with him was also placed in quarantine.

The ministry is now trying to locate all persons still in Thailand who had contact with the patient, including 218 crew members and passengers on the flight from Oman, a taxi driver, a hotel employee and 30 hospital staff.

Of these, 36 individuals besides the patient’s relative are considered at high risk of contracting the disease due to close contact with him.

They include 23 passengers on the flight, the taxi driver and the hotel employee, as well as 11 hospital staff.

The patient had been treated at a hospital in Oman for a week for fever and a cough, Sakolsatayadorn said.

Thailand had confirmed its first case of MERS in June last year, when another elderly man from Oman tested positive.

He was treated at the infectious diseases institute for several weeks before being declared clear of the virus and allowed to leave Thailand.

Thailand is a common destination for so-called "health tourism," and after the case last year the health ministry threatened some private hospitals with legal action following reports that they had sent Middle Eastern patients suspected of being infected with MERS to a government-run infectious disease centre in a taxi.

It warned that such transfers were against disease control protocols.

The government also introduced new measures for the estimated 10,000 Thai Muslims who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in September, including vaccinations for flu and yellow fever before their travels and monitoring for up to a month upon return.

MERS is an acute viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus, with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and often pneumonia.

More than two dozen countries have reported cases of MERS, including the US, Britain, France, Germany and South Korea, where an outbreak killed more than 35 people last year.

The virus had a fatality rate of more than 40 percent in Saudi Arabia where it was first discovered in 2012.