Cambodian police arrested a Nigerian man who fled Thailand after being diagnosed with monkeypox – the country’s first known case – earlier this week in Phuket.
The arrest took place on Saturday afternoon at a market in Phnom Penh, the Khmer Times reported, citing Keut Chhe, deputy district governor in the Cambodian capital.
After his arrest, the 27-year-old man was handed over to the Cambodian Ministry of Health. Because he represents Cambodia’s first case of monkeypox, authorities have urgently begun tracing the man’s whereabouts and who he has been in contact with since entering the country.
The man is believed to have crossed into Cambodia on Friday after his mobile phone signal was detected in a Thai border province, said Dr Opas Karnkawanpong, director general of the Department of Disease Control.
Speaking at a briefing earlier on Saturday, Dr Opas did not name the province or neighboring country, but his presentation showed the location as Sa Kaeo, which borders Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province.
Later reports in Cambodia suggested the man may have been heading to the resort town of Sihanoukville.
However, it now appears he has headed to Phnom Penh instead, which has a large Nigerian expatriate community, according to the Khmer Times.
Dr Opas said the 27-year-old Nigerian fled with the help of others, adding that the police would be urged to take action against anyone who facilitated his escape.
Public health officials did not identify the man by name out of respect for medical confidentiality, but it was widely reported on social and mainstream media.
Pichet Panapong, the deputy governor of Phuket, said all he knew was that the man had left the island.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the Department of Disease Control had traced those who had been in close contact with the patient.
“So far, no new cases of monkeypox have been reported,” he said on Saturday. “People need not worry because every member of the risk group is closely monitored by the department.”
The man is said to have boarded Ethiopian Airlines flight ET0618 to Suvarnabhumi airport on October 21 on a non-immigrant visa to study the language at a university in Chiang Mai until January 18, according to the ministry. of public health.
Phuket officials said the man went to a private hospital on the island on July 16 a week after developing a fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose. He also had a rash and sores on his genital area which spread to other parts of his body and face.
The doctor suspected the man of having been infected with monkeypox. Samples from the patient were therefore sent for verification. A PCR lab test conducted by the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Center confirmed monkey pox on Tuesday.
This was later confirmed by tests organized by the Department of Disease Control.
The hospital later tried to contact the man to tell him to seek treatment at Vachira Phuket Government Hospital, but he had turned off his mobile phone. Officials went to his apartment in Kathu district to arrange treatment, but he was not there.
Mr Pichet said two people who had been in close contact with the Nigerian patient had their blood samples tested and the results were negative. A taxi driver who took the infected man to various locations in Phuket was taken for blood tests on Saturday, the Deputy Governor added.
- Key words: monkeypox in cambodia