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Thailand quarantines 32 people after 2nd MERS case confirmed

by Reuters
Monday, 25 January 2016 12:53 GMT

In this 2015 file photo, medical personnel wear masks to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as they work at a screening point at a private hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

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The WHO said in January it has been notified of 1,626 confirmed cases of infection with MERS

By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Thailand has quarantined 32 people as it seeks to prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after a second case of the virus was detected on Friday, a health ministry official said on Monday.

The virus was found in a 71-year-old Omani man traveling to Bangkok. His son, taxi drivers, hotel staff and passengers on the same plane are among those quarantined for two weeks, Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, told reporters.

Another eight have been identified and will also be quarantined, he said.

"We're still doing an in-depth investigation, so we might be able to bring more people in," Amnuay told Reuters.

The Omani man has a low fever, cough and quickened breathing, Amnuay said.

Airline and hotel shares were little changed on Monday, in contrast to the sharp falls in June when the first case was discovered.

The man diagnosed with the virus in that case was also from Oman. The 75-year-old businessman survived the disease.

MERS was first identified in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and the majority of cases have been in the Middle East.

Thailand's tourism industry would not be affected by the latest MERS case, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters.

"We think we have the situation under control," she said. "We're confident this will not affect tourism in Thailand."

Tourism accounts for 10 percent of GDP, and Thailand expects a record number of international visitors in 2016 - some 32 million, up from 29.88 million in 2015.

The World Health Organization said in its latest update on Jan. 7 it has been notified of 1,626 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS from 26 countries, and at least 586 related deaths.

MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

(Additional reporting by Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Simon Webb)

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