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Update on latest MERS situation in Thailand
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (August 29) closely monitoring an additional case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by Thailand, and again urged the public to pay special attention to safety during travel, taking due consideration of health risks in the places they visit.

     According to the WHO's information, the patient is an 18-year-old Kuwaiti man who arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 25 with his family. He developed symptoms on July 25 during the flight from Kuwait to Bangkok. He attended a local hospital on July 26 and tested positive for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). He had no recent history of contact with camels or with a suspected human case of MERS-CoV infection.
     The patient's condition rapidly improved and two subsequent laboratory tests on July 31 and August 1 returned negative results for MERS-CoV. Specimens collected from his family contacts were also negative. He was discharged from hospital and left Thailand with his family on August 4.

     To date, 1 792 cases have been reported to the WHO, including at least 640 deaths. Of note, 1 577 were confirmed in 10 Middle East countries, with 1 434 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), 79 in the United Arabs Emirates, 28 in Jordan, 16 in Qatar, seven in Oman, six in Iran, four in Kuwait, and one each in Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.

     As the Hajj pilgrimage will begin in September, pilgrims visiting Mecca, the KSA, should be vigilant against MERS. Those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic renal disease and immunodeficiency, are more likely to develop severe infections if they are exposed to MERS-CoV. Pilgrims should hence consult healthcare providers before travel to review the risk and assess whether pilgrimage is advisable.
     Pilgrims visiting Mecca may refer to the DH's advice or that from the Ministry of Health of the KSA.

     "Travellers to the Middle East should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels, avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry, and avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities. We strongly advise travel agents organising tours to the Middle East to abstain from arranging camel rides and activities involving direct contact with camels, which are known risk factors for acquiring MERS-CoV," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     "We will maintain close communication with the WHO and relevant health authorities," the spokesman added.

     Travellers to affected areas should maintain vigilance, adopt appropriate health precautions and take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene. The public may visit the following pages for more information and health advice: the CHP's MERS page and the DH's Travel Health Service, MERS statistics in affected areas, the CHP's Facebook Page and YouTube Channel, and the WHO's latest news. Tour leaders and tour guides operating overseas tours are advised to refer to the CHP's health advice on MERS.
Ends/Monday, August 29, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:28
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