Anutin says suspected monkeypox cases in Thailand were herpes

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin announced yesterday that suspected monkeypox cases in Thailand turned out to be herpes. The suspected cases were from travellers coming from countries where monkeypox cases have been reported. Anutin said there are so far no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Thailand.

Some of the herpes viruses can also present with similar symptoms, including the lesions that eventually crust over and sluff off. But herpes viruses are from a totally different virus family than monkeypox.

Anutin said he had been informed of the monkeypox situation by Dr. Rome Buathong of the International Communicable Disease Control and Quarantine Division.

Anutin made the statement after returning from the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva. There, he asked the World Health Organisation for help securing supplies of the smallpox vaccine, according to a Bangkok Post report.

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Thailand has yet to report a single confirmed case of monkeypox infection but Anutin says that as the number of foreign arrivals increases, this heightens the risk of the monkeypox virus being imported. The government is therefore seeking vaccine supplies in order to provide a protective vaccine should it be necessary. The vaccines are based on the highly successful smallpox vaccines.

Most people over the age of (approximately) 55 are very likely vaccinated against smallpox (which was eradicated as a virus in 1980. The people who were vaccinated still retain a high level of immunity against smallpox, and are assumed to provide a high level of immunity against monkeypox – both are from the same family of viruses. They share cross-immunity, which means protection against one will provide protection against the other. In particular, vaccinations developed to protect against smallpox protect against monkeypox.

However, a prominent Thai paediatrician, Dr Somsak Lolekha, says monkeypox will not become a major risk to public health, given that a large proportion of Thais have already been vaccinated against smallpox. According to the medic, studies in Africa have shown that the smallpox vaccine offers at least 85% protection against monkeypox and this protection can last a lifetime.

“Immunity induced by the smallpox vaccine can last up to 80 years after vaccination.”

Thailand no longer routinely administers smallpox vaccines after the WHO declared the virus eradicated in 1980. The administration of the vaccine stopped at that point, due to the risk of serious side-effects in people with compromised immune systems. Live attenuated vaccines, such as the smallpox one, have been shown, on occasion, to cause adverse, often deadly, side-effects in high-risk groups.

The total number of monkeypox cases is now over 225, across 20 countries, as outbreaks spring up in countries which have not had monkeypox outbreak issues since it was first identified in 1958. Epidemiologists say it is extremely unlikely that monkeypox could become a pandemic due to its low transmissibility, the high rate of people in the world that have been vaccinated against smallpox and the high effectiveness of smallpox vaccines.

SOURCE: Sanook

Thailand News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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