Thailand's first Mers case treated at Bumrungrad Hospital, patients relatives tested

BANGKOK (REUTERS, AFP) - Thailand’s first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) was treated at the Bumrungrad Hospital in the capital, a hospital doctor said on Friday.

"The patient came to us tired, coughing ... there was no fever,” the doctor told a televised news conference. So we X-rayed his chest ... we found that he could have two things, a heart condition or the Mers virus." The high-end Bumrungrad, one of Thailand’s leading hospitals, is known for treating medical tourists.

Thailand confirmed its first case of Mers on Thursday, a 75-year-old businessman from Oman, just as an outbreak in South Korea that began last month and has infected 166 people and killed 24 of them, appeared to be levelling off.

The patient, who arrived with three members of his family, was later moved to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Bangkok and is in quarantine, the health ministry said. Thailand is a booming medical tourism hub popular with Middle Eastern patients.

The authorities tested three of the man's relatives on Friday with the results for two turning out negative while one was 'inconclusive'.

Surachet Satitniramai, acting permanent secretary of the public health ministry, told AFP "we will check all three again" without providing a timeframe.

The Omani patient was in a "stable condition", Surachet said.

The relatives are in quarantine at the institute, where the Omani patient is also being treated.

The Mers case was the first recorded in Thailand and also the first in Southeast Asia since the South Korean outbreak.

Thai authorities are monitoring a further 85 people who have been in contact with the Omani, including those on board his flight to Bangkok, at hospital or in their homes, a health ministry spokesman told AFP on Friday.

Authorities are also still trying to locate one of the 21 'high risk' people identified on that flight - a person from the northeastern Thai province of Buriram.

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin said earlier Friday Thailand had informed airlines about the transit passengers and crew who are no longer in the country but deemed at risk after sharing the flight with the Omani man.

Mers has spread at a rapid pace in South Korea since the first case was diagnosed on May 20, infecting 166 people in what is the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia.

Earlier Friday, the health ministry said Thai authorities took nearly four days to confirm the first case, a time lag likely to raise fears of a further spread of the deadly virus in Asia.

In a bid to contain the deadly virus Thai officials have installed thermoscans at airports to detect passengers with fever and are also handing out information pamphlets about Mers in Thai, Arabic and English.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, Mers cases have been reported in four Asian countries before Thailand since the virus first surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier praised Thailand’s 'swift action' and 'vigilance' in isolating its first Mers patient and his relatives.

Malaysia and the Philippines reported cases before the South Korean outbreak in May, while China reported a person with Mers who had travelled to the country after recent exposure in South Korea, according to a WHO statement.