Phuket prepares to combat new virus

A recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has prompted the Ministry of Public Health to set up an emergency committee in preparation to combat the spread of the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are at least 77 reported victims of the disease and 44 deaths so far.

Public Health Minister Narong Sahamethaphat, who led a press conference on Friday at Phuket International Airport, said that the number of victims is expected to rise. Despite the fact that there are no reports of the virus in Thailand at present, local hospitals are now on alert for any possible cases of the contagious infection. Those infected develop severe acute respiratory illness. Some of the symptoms may include coughing, high fever, and a shortness of breath.

The first reported case of the virus was back in September, where infections were predominantly identified within Middle Eastern countries. Due to the virus' contagious nature, a number of tourists who visited the Middle East have since spread it to parts of Europe. Narong said that hospitals and clinics around the country would be watching closely for potential victims, particularly on those who have recently travelled to the Middle East.

In an effort to protect the people of Phuket from the potential risks of the virus, Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) chief Bancha Kakong said that emergency teams have been set up at hospitals around Phuket in preparation for a possible outbreak of the virus.

Recent international travellers are urged to see a doctor immediately should they experience any symptoms. Additionally, citizens are advised to wear a mask and take extra steps to practice good personal hygiene during this time, Bancha said.