Low threat of Ebola, MERS in Thailand, PBTA told


While the threat of spread to Thailand is low, Pattaya and Chonburi should take precautions to prevent outbreaks of Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome viruses in Pattaya, a public health official told the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association.

Benjawan Wijarnpunya, chief of disease control at the Chonburi Public Health Department, said there have been no reported cases of either Ebola – which has devastated West Africa – or MERS – which has killed about 300 people in the Middle East – in Thailand.

Thailand’s chances of seeing an Ebola outbreak is slim, she said, but precautions should be taken in tourist areas. Already, Thailand is using infra-red cameras and has placed doctors on call at international airports in Bangkok, Phuket, Hat Yai and Chiang Mai.

The Ministry of Public Health said earlier this month it had been monitoring 21 tourists, but none had developed Ebola.

More threatening than Ebola, however, is MERS, Benjawan said. The virus is circulating widely on the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Fifteen countries, including the Philippines and Malaysia, have reported cases, all of whom contracted the disease in the Mideast.

However, there has been no spread of the disease in those countries and the World Health Organization said last month that MERS’ spread to Southeast Asia was unlikely.

WHO’s director of communicable diseases in western Asia told a meeting in the Philippines that the agency has not seen any evidence showing the MERS can spread easily in groups and communities outside the Middle East.