Thailand quarantines 32 people after second Mers case confirmed

A Thai man wears a protective mask as he walks next to signs giving information on Mers in Bangkok. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand has quarantined 32 people as it seeks to prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) after a second case of the virus was detected on Friday, a health ministry official said on Monday (Jan 25).

The virus was found in a 71-year-old Omani man traveling to Bangkok. His son, taxi drivers, hotel staff and passengers on the same plane are among those quarantined for two weeks, Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, told reporters.

Another eight have been identified and will also be quarantined, he said. "We're still doing an in-depth investigation, so we might be able to bring more people in," Amnuay told Reuters.

The Omani man has a low fever, cough and quickened breathing, Amnuay said.

Airline and hotel shares were little changed on Monday, in contrast to the sharp falls in June when the first case was discovered.

The man diagnosed with the virus in that case was also from Oman. The 75-year-old businessman survived the disease.

Mers was first identified in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and the majority of cases have been in the Middle East.

Thailand's tourism industry would not be affected by the latest Mers case, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters. "We think we have the situation under control," she said."We're confident this will not affect tourism in Thailand."

Tourism accounts for 10 per cent of GDP, and Thailand expects a record number of international visitors in 2016 - some 32 million, up from 29.88 million in 2015.

The World Health Organisation said in its latest update on Jan 7 it has been notified of 1,626 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Mers from 26 countries, and at least 586 related deaths.

Mers is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).

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