11 July 2024

Overseas arrivals, from countries where Monkeypox infections have been detected, are now screened for symptoms, such as blisters, by health officials as they walk through the scanners at Thailand’s international airports. They are then issued with a “health beware” notice, in QR code form, as the country steps up measures to prevent the import of the disease from overseas.

According to the Department of Disease Control, all travellers arriving from abroad are advised to see a doctor immediately if they develop a fever and blisters.

Hospitals are required to take samples from the traveller with a suspected infection and send them to the Department of Medical Sciences for analysis. A report must also be filed.

Health officials at international airports have been told to watch for overseas arrivals from central African countries, such as Nigeria and the Republic of Congo, and from the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, according to Dr. Chakkarat Pittayawonganon, director of the Epidemiology Division of the Department of Disease Control.

A health emergency operations centre has already been set up to cope with the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, Monkeypox has symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. It is caused by the Monkeypox virus, which belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. The name Monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958. The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.

Over 100 suspected and confirmed cases have been reported since late last year in Europe and North America, but they have not been severe.

The WHO also said it does not have evidence that the Monkeypox virus has mutated. The disease does not spread easily between people, but can be transmitted through close contact or contact with items used by an infected person.

As smallpox is believed to have been eradicated a long time ago, Thailand does not have any reserves of the vaccine, which can also protect against Monkeypox, but officials will try to secure a supply, said Dr. Chakkarat, adding that the officials are trying to find a pharmaceutical manufacturer which is still producing the vaccine.