A committee will on Monday decide whether to impose the highest level of monkeypox alert after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday declared the outbreak a global health emergency, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Sunday.
He said the committee, which comprises qualified medical experts, would discuss measures to be taken to cope with the monkeypox outbreak said by the WHO to have affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries. The experts will also consider whether and how to impose an alert of that level under the Thai public health system.
So far Thailand has had one confirmed smallpox case – a 27-year-old Nigerian man arrested in Cambodia after escaping from Phuket, where he was found to have contracted the disease.
Mr Anutin said he had ordered international communicable disease control checkpoints along the border to coordinate with immigration police to watch travellers from countries declared high-risk by the WHO.
They are subject to be screened at airports for basic symptoms – such as blisters and rashes on the skin – by using similar methods as those used against Covid-19.
As for a smallpox vaccine long kept in storage, the Medical Science Department has examined the supply and found it could be applied for monkeypox, if necessary, Mr Anutin said.
The Department of Medical Services, he said, has confirmed that people infected with monkeypox can be treated with medicines that are currently available, and hospitals are ready to provide treatment.
Mr Anutin said people should not be overly nervous because monkeypox does not spread as quickly as Covid-19. Universal prevention measures – such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing – can minimise the risk of contracting monkeypox, he added.
Asked about measures to prevent monkeypox patients escaping from treatment facilities, Mr Anutin said since the WHO has imposed the highest alert level against monkeypox he has instructed hospitals to keep people suspected or confirmed to have been infected in quarantine for treatment and further investigation.
Asked whether it is now necessary to impose travel restrictions to prevent people from some countries entering Thailand, Mr Anutin said the situation is not yet at that level.