Ebola not a threat to Thailand

There is very little chance the Ebola virus will spread from west Africa to Thailand, permanent health secretary Narong Sahamethapat insisted on Thursday.

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Dr Narong  said no Ebola infections had been found in Thailand, and there was a very low opportunity for the disease to reach here.

Even so, health officials nationwide have been told to watch out for anyone showing possible  symptoms -- a high temperature, muscle pain, headache, vomiting and a rash. Laboratory staff were on standby to make  any necessary tests.

Dr Opas Karnkavinpong, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said the disease could be transmitted only through body fluids such as  sexual intercourse, and direct and unprotected contact with the body a dead victim.

It was difficult for the virus to travel across continents to Thailand. Intercontinental contagion was possible by air travel, but there were no direct flights from West Africa to Thailand. Indirect flights must pass through Europe where screenings were strict.

 Dr Yong Phuworawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, said the mortality rate of Ebola was 60-90%, so patients would be too weak to travel to America or Asia and the disease was contained in West Africa.

The scientist who helped discover the Ebola virus said on Wednesday the outbreak in west Africa was unlikely to trigger a major epidemic outside the region, adding he would happily sit next to an infected person on a train.

Prof Peter Piot  co-discovered the Ebola virus as a 27-year-old researcher in 1976.

He is now director of the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was previously executive director of the United Nations  HIV/AIDS programme UNAIDS.

Even if someone carrying Ebola were to fly to Europe, the United States or another part of Africa, "I don't think that will give rise to a major epidemic," he told AFP in an interview on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus ... as long as they don't vomit on you or something. This is an infection that requires very close contact," he said.

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