Many Thais in 'risky areas' in Korea but none known to have MERS

Many Thais in 'risky areas' in Korea but none known to have MERS
Officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport check the body temperature of | travellers in a move to identify those affected by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.

Thousands of Thais in South Korea - battling a crisis from the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - are living in areas at risk of the disease, but no Thai has come down with it yet, according to Thailand's Department of Information.

In South Korea, MERS has been spreading mainly in Daejeon.

"In all, there are about 90,000 Thais in South Korea. Of them, 19 per cent are in risky zones," the department's director-general, Sek Wannamethee, said yesterday.

He disclosed the information after a meeting with relevant agencies including the Public Health Ministry, the Labour Ministry, and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports on the MERS situation in South Korea.

Given that MERS has a high fatality rate, Thailand is now preparing to add it to the list of dangerous communicable diseases - to facilitate control measures if any case is detected on Thai soil.

Sek said the Foreign Ministry had advised Thais living in or visiting South Korea to take precautions against the MERS threat.

"They have been advised to cover their mouth and nose with masks, to wash their hands regularly, to avoid public places, and to stay away from people with fever or MERS-related symptoms," he said.

The ministry had also instructed them to immediately visit a doctor and to alert the Thai Embassy there if they developed fever.

Director of the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute Dr Jariya Saengsajja, meanwhile, said none of the 4,000 South Korean participants at an ongoing medical conference in Thailand had any symptoms of MERS.

At Chiang Mai Airport, disease-control chief Weerapong Pongjunta said the body temperature of travellers was checked.

"Those recording a temperature above 38 degree Celsius will be quarantined and sent to a hospital to check if they are MERS carriers," he said, noting that passengers from South Korea were receiving special attention.

The Hat Yai airport has also imposed measures to screen MERS cases, with passengers from MERS-affected countries checked for flu-like symptoms.

The airport's immigration checkpoint and an international communicable disease-control checkpoint in Hat Yai check the body temperature of all hajj pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia, one of the affected countries. The airport provides hand sanitisers, leaflets with information about the disease and advice for those returning from Mecca.

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