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Thailand confirms first MERS case amid easing South Korea outbreak

Thailand's Health Ministry has confirmed the country's first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus. More than 55 people have been quarantined after contact with the infected man.

Two laboratories confirmed that a 75-year-old man traveling from Oman has been infected by the deadly virus, Rajata Rajatanavin, Thailand's public health minister, announced on Thursday.

The man arrived in the Southeast Asian country on June 15 to seek treatment at a private hospital for a heart condition.

"We advise the public not to panic because the patient and his family members were separated since the beginning," Rajata said in a statement. "Our system is ready and we are monitoring the cases closely."

Preemptive measures

Thailand quarantined 59 people who came in contact with the man, including health personnel, hotel employees, and three of his relatives.

Thailand's Disease Control Department said it was also screening in-bound travelers as a preemptive step to impede the transmission of the virus, reported Reuters news agency.

"We are checking 67 ports including land, sea and air," the department's head Sophon Mekthon said.

"We've told all hospitals in Thailand to be on alert. Those who come back from the Middle and South Korea must be checked thoroughly," Mekthon added.

The infection in Thailand came amid a MERS outbreak in South Korea that has left 23 dead and more than 160 infected. South Korea's sluggish response at the beginning crisis prompted criticism from the Korean public regarding the country's ineffective strategy.

However, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan on Thursday praised the Korean government's efforts after new cases of the virus dropped into single digits, a sign that the deadly virus may finally be under control.

MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although the virus has been detected in Europe, North America, and Asia. The 2012 outbreak in Saudi Arabia left more than 400 people dead and 1,000 infected.

ls/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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