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Screenings hiked but not alert level

The Ministry of Public Health will not yet declare monkeypox a “serious communicable disease” under Thailand’s 2015 Communicable Disease Act but it will boost screenings for the disease.

Despite rejecting a proposal to heighten the health alert, the ministry’s committee, comprising medical and health experts, approved the ministry’s prompt reaction to the current worldwide spread of the viral disease, said Dr Chakrarat Pittayawonganon, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology. He made the remarks after the committee met on Tuesday.

The ministry announced over the weekend that it would raise surveillance measures for monkeypox after the first case was detected in Thailand — a Nigerian man who later fled to Cambodia where he was apprehended.

The committee has advised the ministry to further expand its monkeypox screening measures to cover all groups of international arrivals, not only those from certain countries where cases of monkeypox have been reported, Dr Chakrarat said.

Monkeypox does not fit the definition of a serious communicable disease under the 2015 law because it is not virulent or highly contagious, while the country’s healthcare system is capable of handling patients infected with the disease, he added.

The committee has assigned the Department of Medical Services to draft and issue guidelines for monkeypox treatment, and communicate these to all healthcare workers, he noted.

Unlike the virus that causes Covid-19, monkeypox has not mutated and is normally transmitted by close contact with bodily fluids or lesions. Even though it can be passed to others through respiratory droplets, it is not an airborne disease, Dr Chakrarat said.

Thailand has effective treatments but they are prohibitively expensive, he said.

In most cases, monkeypox is transmitted through sexual activity, making it a challenge to contain and almost impossible to eradicate, similar to other sexually transmitted diseases, said Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Department of Paediatrics of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine.

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