PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A Nigerian man who went on the run after becoming Thailand’s first monkeypox case was found in Phnom Penh on Saturday (July 23) and taken to hospital, the Cambodian Health Ministry said.

It comes the same day the World Health Organisation officials in Geneva declared the monkeypox outbreak as a global health emergency.

The 27-year-old tourist – who had overstayed his visa in Thailand – was diagnosed with monkeypox in the resort city of Phuket on Monday, a Thai health official said.

During his stay in Phuket, the man had visited two entertainment venues, and 142 people are now being screened for the virus, a health official said, adding that the man also had unprotected sex with a woman.

After learning of his diagnosis, he fled his Phuket accommodation, turned off his phone and failed to respond to police or health workers’ messages.

His getaway sparked a manhunt across Thailand and authorities said on Saturday his phone signal was detected in a northeastern province bordering Cambodia.

After searching several locations on Saturday, Cambodian police found the runaway at a Phnom Penh guest house and he has since been sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for medical treatment.

“In order to prevent the infection of monkeypox virus, the Ministry of Health appeals to all people who have direct contact with the Nigerian patient to isolate themselves and seek health checks,” the Cambodian ministry said in a statement.

Monkeypox is not as contagious as the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organisation.

But since a surge of infections were reported in early May outside west and central African countries – where the disease has been endemic – it has affected more than 16,800 people in more than 70 countries, according to a tally published this week by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ninety-five percent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine – the largest research to date.