Yala woman tested for MERS after Haj trip

Yala Hospital yesterday admitted a 59-year-old Thai Muslim woman, who had just returned from the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, with symptoms resembling those of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS).

Medical staff and rescue workers, all suited with protective gear, moved the woman from her home in Yala's Muang district yesterday morning to a specially prepared control room before submitting her to a disease screening procedure to test if she has the MERS - or normal flu. She had returned from Mecca on October 2 and developed fever, coughing and |respiratory problems.

As a precaution, MERS screening points have been set up at hospitals in the deep South as Thai pilgrims begin returning from the annual Haj, which ended last week.

Thailand had an initial confirmed MERS case, a 75-year-old foreign man, earlier this year but it was promptly contained and the patient recovered and went home. No more infections have been reported since.

The case of the Yala woman with suspected MERS emerged amid news reports that a 63-year-old Saudi man with suspected MERS died in the Philippines last week. This triggered an intensive search for other people with whom the man had contact with, which turned out to be nearly 100 people. As of Monday, Filipino health officials reported three more close contacts who have been admitted to hospital showing suspicious symptoms. They said results of tests were pending.