Southeast Asia braces for MERS, boosts screening at airports

Southeast Asia braces for MERS, boosts screening at airports
A Thai Airways crew member disinfects a plane at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand, a preventive measure against Middle East respiratory syndrome.
PHOTO: Reuters

HANOI -- As Middle East respiratory syndrome continues to spread through South Korea, Southeast Asian countries are stepping up detection measures and preparing for potential outbreaks of the virus.

The Vietnamese government had set up 98 mobile response teams by Wednesday, with 65 in Hanoi and 33 in the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. Each likely includes emergency medical technicians and nurses. If a MERS case is suspected, they will take rapid action, including isolating the patient.

Vietnam has 135,000 South Koreans, the most in Southeast Asia. The country houses a major Samsung Electronics smartphone plant, and companies such as Lotte Group and Daewoo have a presence there as well.

The Health Ministry has taken countermeasures under the assumption that MERS patients will be found in Vietnam. Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said the large population of South Koreans working in Vietnam means the risk of a MERS outbreak is high.

On Tuesday, two Russian tourists suspected of carrying the virus were quarantined in Lam Dong Province, but they tested negative.

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