Thailand's first Mers patient 'free of virus'

BANGKOK - There was some good news on the Mers front for Thailand and South Korea yesterday.

An Omani man who became Thailand's first case of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) has been declared free of the deadly virus, the Thai Health Ministry said yesterday.

The 75-year-old man, who had travelled to Bangkok for treatment of a heart condition and was then diagnosed with the virus, will remain in quarantine for the time being.

"In the last test results, we did not find the Mers virus in the patient," said Mr Surachet Satitramai, acting permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry.

"His condition is much better but we still need to see if his other health conditions, including his heart condition, will have any effect on his recovery."

Mr Surachet said three of the man's relatives who travelled with him to Thailand were also free of the virus. The ministry is still monitoring 36 people who were exposed to the lone patient.

Thailand confirmed its first Mers case earlier this month, becoming the fourth Asian country to register the virus this year. Its status as a hub for medical tourism could be helping it contain the spread of Mers, government and health officials said last week.

In South Korea, officials yesterday reported no new Mers cases or deaths for the first time in nine days, but warned there was no indication yet that the outbreak had been brought under control.

The number of those infected with Mers remained unchanged for two days in a row at 182, the South Korean Health Ministry said. The death toll also remained unchanged from 32 on Sunday.

It is the first time that the country has reported no additional infections as well as no new deaths since June 20. The outbreak began on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The number of new patients has generally been in decline since the middle of this month, when it often jumped by double digits - with many of the new infections stemming from the Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, the epicentre of the outbreak.

But officials remained cautious yesterday as they monitored developments at another hospital in eastern Seoul, where a Mers patient potentially came into contact with thousands of people before being diagnosed on June 22 and dying two days later.

"This week falls within the incubation period involving that case, so we are keeping a close eye on the situation and will do our best to prevent further spread of the virus," said senior Health Ministry official Kwon Duk Cheol.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Thailand's first Mers patient 'free of virus''. Print Edition | Subscribe