Thailand Praised for Impeccable MERS Response

Thailand has been one of the world’s best prepared for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), according to the World Health Organisation.

Thailand is popular as a medical tourism destination aside from being one of the world’s top geo-tourism spots. Its tourism industry contributes 10% to its gross national product, with medical tourist arrival alone reaching up to 1.4 million annually.

The country should have been a high-risk area.

“It is the very fact that we are a travel and medical hub that works in our favor and that allows us to be prepared,” Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul related to Reuters. “It is our experience handling foreign visitors and medical tourists from high-risk regions like the Middle East and South Korea. Thailand is also prepared because we saw what happened in South Korea, we had time.”

Prasert Thongcharoen, an advisor to Thailand’s Disease Control Department, had made an investigation on Bumrungrad’s handling of Thailand’s first MERS case and found it to be without flaw.

“They put the patient in an isolation room and everything that was needed for infectious control was done,” Prasert told in an interview.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also commended Thailand’s very effective response.

“Thailand diagnosed and isolated the MERS patient in a designated, well-equipped facility,” related Doctor Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director in South East Asia.

But, South Korea continues to suffer from the MERS outbreak, with two more fatalities recorded and three new cases of infection.

The outbreak in South Korea has been described by WHO as large and complex, although they didn’t think it would result to a global epidemic.

According to the South Korea health ministry, the most recent deaths were of very old patients with pre-existing health conditions.

Because of the MERS outbreak — which is the largest outside the Arabian peninsula — most schools had closed down for fear of viral transmission among young students and faculties. They did reopen weeks later. But several hospitals with numerous MERS cases had to be locked down, with Samsung Medical Center opting to limit its hospital services to help in controlling the crisis.