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Officials step up monkeypox screening

The Public Health Ministry is ramping up the screening of air travellers from countries reporting a spread of monkeypox to step up precautions against the disease.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the screening is being conducted at airports and targets travellers from outbreak countries.

He said monkeypox is not a serious disease and it is not highly transmissible without direct contact with bodily fluids or lesions or prolonged contact with an infected person.

Generally, most patients are able to recover at home, he said.

Health authorities are doubling efforts to educate the public about the disease and enhance vigilance and investigative measures, he said.

Since the disease is transmitted via close physical contact, having multiple sex partners can increase the infection risk, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox cases are increasing among men who have sex with other men.

Homosexual and bisexual men are advised to limit the number of sexual partners to protect themselves and help slow the virus’ transmission, it said.

“Monkeypox can be avoided if we take precautions and abstain from risky sexual behaviour,” Mr Anutin said.

The minister added that monkeypox vaccines will initially be kept for immunisation of frontline healthcare workers first.

Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said the department has told quarantine offices at international airports across the country to step up the screening of arrivals from countries where monkeypox outbreaks are taking place.

As of Friday, a total of 2,389 arrivals from Europe and 138 from Africa were screened and no suspected cases of infection were detected, Dr Sopon said.

He also provided an update on the two monkeypox cases detected in Thailand so far.

The first is a 27-year-old Nigerian national confirmed to have the disease on July 18 in Phuket. He later fled the kingdom to Cambodia on July 21 before being arrested in Phnom Penh.

More than 50 people who came into contact with the man while he was in Phuket have been tracked and no new infections have been detected, Dr Sopon said.

The second confirmed case, which has nothing to with the Nigerian man, involves a 47-year-old Thai who is being treated at Vajira Hospital, Dr Sopon said.

The man told health authorities he had sex with a foreign man and began developing symptoms on July 15, Dr Sopon said.

Authorities are looking for the foreign man, he said.

Health authorities also collected samples from 17 people who came in contact with the patient for lab tests on Friday, he said.

Results of 16 of them came back negative yesterday while the result of the other was pending, he said.

All are subjected to 21 days of quarantine, Dr Sopon said.

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