Thailand hospital discharges first and only Mers case after he's declared free of virus

Airport staffs wear protective masks against Mers while on duty at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, Thailand on June 21, 2015.
Airport staffs wear protective masks against Mers while on duty at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, Thailand on June 21, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (AFP) - A 75-year-old Omani man who became Thailand's first case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) was discharged from hospital on Friday after being declared free of the deadly virus, officials said.

His diagnosis last month was South-east Asia's first case since the disease was confirmed in South Korea in May where it has killed 33 people and infected 184 in the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia.

Thailand now appears to be Mers-free after the Omani patient tested negative for the virus and the 176 other people who were under surveillance for having been in contact with him also showed no signs of the disease.

"A communicable diseases expert has confirmed that he's free from Mers," Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin said in a statement.

"After 14 days of surveillance everybody is normal and laboratory results have not detected any Mers."

The former Mers patient and three of his relatives will fly home to Oman on Friday evening, Mr Sopon Mekthon, director of Thailand's department of disease control, said.

Thailand, a booming medical tourism hub popular with Middle Eastern patients, has been praised by the World Health Organization for swiftly isolating its first Mers patient and relatives last month.

The Omani man had travelled to Bangkok for treatment for a heart condition before he was diagnosed with the virus and quickly moved to a hospital on the outskirts of the city for treatment.

The Health Ministry statement released on Friday said he had presented without a fever for 15 days, and was breathing without any support from a ventilator for the past five, and that he was now able to walk unaided.

"He tested negative for (the virus) five times. The last test was conducted on July 1," it said.