11 July 2024

Airports of Thailand Company (AOT) has installed thermal scanners at six international airports, to screen passengers arriving from China, in a precautionary measure to help contain an outbreak of an unidentified form of viral pneumonia which has struck several dozen people in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

44 infections have been reported so far, including 11 severe cases, sparking fear of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Many of the infected individuals were stall holders at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale market, which health officials have closed until further notice.

Back in 2002/3, SARs spread to 26 countries, infecting more than 8,000 people with a severe, flu-like illness and claimed more than 750 lives.

AOT managing director Mr. Nitinai Sirisamatthakarn said that the company is coordinating with the Disease Control Department and is scanning passengers arriving from China into Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Mar Fah Luang in Chiang Rai.

He said AOT has sought cooperation from airlines operating flights from Wuhan, asking them to disembark their passengers at specific ramps at the six airports, where thermal scanners are installed before the immigration checkpoints.

If a passenger has a fever, the airline must notify AOT and all passengers on that flight will be confined to a specific area and screened by Thai health officials before they are allowed to proceed to immigration, said Mr. Nitinai.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul led senior officials from the Disease Control Department in an inspection of the precautionary measures being employed at Suvarnabhumi International Airport to cope with the mysterious viral infection.

According to the preventive procedures, he said that, if a passenger arriving from a risk area presents with a fever, they will be taken by ambulance to a hospital equipped with special facilities for further observation and treatment.

The minister, however, asked the Thai public not to panic, assuring them that Thailand has effective screening systems to contain such infections.

The exact identity of the virus in question remains unknown, but the Wuhan municipal health commission has ruled out avian influenza (bird flu), an adenovirus or other common respiratory diseases as potential culprits.