Police and health officials are now looking for the man. Photo: Supplied

Phuket News: Phuket monkeypox man on the run

PHUKET: Officials in Phuket are trying to track down the 27-year-old Nigerian man recognised as the first confirmed monkeypox infection in the country after he left his rented accommodation in Patong on Tuesday (July 19).

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong revealed the news at a press conference this morning (July 22).

The man (later named as Osmond Chihazirim Nzere) arrived in Thailand at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok on Oct 21 last year, said the official patient investigation report by the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) also released today.

Present at the press conference to announce the PPHO’s findings was PPHO Chief Dr Kusak Kiattikoon.

The man had been staying at a condominium development in Kathu since November, said the PPHO report.

Maj Gen Semphan clarified that the condo was in Patong (* See update below).

The man had a risk history of touching tourists in Patong entertainment venues two to three weeks before he became sick. He also had a history of practicing unsafe sex, the PPHO report noted.

The man had not turned up for an appointment with a doctor on Tuesday morning, Maj Gen Sermphan explained.

His mobile phone is now switched off and officers have confirmed that he left the condo building in Patong in a taxi, he added.

The man had also overstayed his visa, Maj Gen Sermphan also noted.

The man was last seen by a cleaning lady at the condo project at 3pm on Tuesday (July 19). When the cleaning lady knocked on the door to his condo, the man answered by opening the door, but did not open the door wide. He told the lady that the room did not require cleaning.

At 9pm Tuesday staff at the condo noticed that the man had left the key to his condo on the front desk counter. No staff saw the man leave the building.

The man was initially suspected as infected last Saturday (July 16), when he presented himself at a private hospital, the PPHO report noted.

The hospital sent samples to Chulalongkorn Hospital for testing, the report added.

Test results on Monday (July 18) confirmed that the man was infected. The Institute of Public Health Sciences Research confirmed the test results on Tuesday.

Further investigation by disease control officers was carried out together with local government organisations and relevant agencies on Wednesday.

All areas were the man was known to come into contact with, including the condo where he had been staying, have been sanitised with disinfectant, the PPHO report said.

Contact tracing had confirmed two high-risk contacts at his accomm0dation and nine in the community, not including his taxi driver. Five venues entertainment venues in Patong were investigated, said the report.

“All relevant departments have jointly followed up closely to find the confirmed patient and we will provide more information later,” Maj Gen Sermphan said.

Dr Weerasak Lorthongkham, Director of Vachira Phuket Hospital and Dr Kanokorn Lertlamyong, Internal Medicine Specialist in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Vachira Phuket Hospital, today both emphasised that the strain of monkeypox that the man is infected with is not the deadly version found in Central Africa.

“This strain is from West Africa, which is a mild strain,” Dr Weerasak said, adding that the disease is related to chicken pox.

People can contract the disease through contact with secretions or wounds of those infected, or by touching objects contaminated with secretions, he said.

“If someone has a fever or a history of fever along with one or more of the symptoms including sore throat, headache, body aches, back pain, enlarged lymph nodes, and a rash, blisters or pustules, they should see a doctor to confirm whether they are infected,” he said.

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong said people can still travel to Phuket as usual, as the infections are usually not serious.

“People usually recover from being infected within two to four weeks all by themselves,” he said.

“I would like to emphasise that it is not spread as easily as COVID-19 in any way,” he added.

UPDATE: Officials have confirmed more details about the search for the missing Nigerian man.

The man entered Thailand on a Non-Immigrant Education visa. His visa allowed him to stay until Jan 18. The man told officials he was going to study in Chiang Mai, but came to Phuket instead, where he stayed at a dCondo project in Kathu.

The man presented himself at Bangkok Hospital Phuket last Saturday (July 16) due to blisters on the skin and genitals. He was treated as an outpatient and told to return to his accommodation and self-quarantine.

On Monday (July 18), police went to visit the man dCondo in Kathu, but found he was no longer staying there. He had left the condo at about 7pm to go to Patong.

On Tuesday (July 19), the man failed to present himself for a doctor’s appointment at Vachira Phuket Hospital for follow-up treatment for what was already presumed to be monkeypox. Attempts to contact him failed as his phone was switched off.

The man was found to be at the Patong Princess Hotel on Wednesday (July 20), where he was seen entering a white sedan, presumed to be a taxi at about 9pm.

Police have confirmed that the car he was travelling in passed through Kalim, Kamala and Cherng Talay. It was not clarified whether the man returned to the airport.

However, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Sermphan said he now believes the man is no longer in Phuket.

Health officials have identified 17 high-risk contacts. Initially, the first group of seven were found to be infected, while the other 10 are pending results and have been quarantined to monitor symptoms.

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