BANGKOK – Thailand saw its first monkeypox case after lab tests confirmed on July 19 that a Nigerian man hospitalised in Phuket had the disease, The Nation reported.

But he managed to leave the hospital and fled to Cambodia. He was arrested there on Saturday (July 23).

Phuket health officials said they have tracked down another 19 people who came into close contact with the infected man, The Nation reported.

The 19 at-risk individuals were traced to six locations or services used by the Nigerian national.

The Phuket Public Health Office said two of the 19 had tested negative for monkeypox virus while test results for the others would be known in a few days.

Meanwhile, Thailand upgraded its monkeypox alert to the national level after an emergency meeting of health agencies and the public health minister.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul called the meeting after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

Declaring monkeypox a global health emergency is the strongest call to action the agency can make, and Covid-19 was given the same label by WHO in 2020.

Mr Anutin said monitoring and control of monkeypox in Thailand will be taken over by the Public Health Ministry’s emergency operations centre.

He said the meeting had also discussed the timeline of Thailand’s first confirmed monkeypox case, The Nation reported.

Mr Anutin said health chiefs at the meeting believed the Nigerian national had not spread the virus to others over the past month, so Thailand was still safe.

He said that disease control officials around the country were working with border checkpoints to screen travellers for monkeypox.

Travellers from at-risk countries were being monitored tightly, he added.

The Medical Services Department assured the meeting it had enough smallpox vaccine in stock to protect residents of Thailand.

The vaccine is reported to have been in cold storage for 40 years, but the department said it was still viable, The Nation reported.