Thailand's status as a hub for medical tourism could be helping the country contain the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), government and health officials said, after confirming its first case of the deadly virus last week.
Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of the Thai economy, and the country is also the top destination in Southeast Asia for patients seeking low-cost, quality healthcare, with an average 1.4 million medical tourists a year, compared with 600,000 for Singapore, a Thai medical tourism association said.
That meant the stakes were high for Thailand when the health ministry reported on Thursday the first case of MERS in a 75-year-old man from Oman, who had traveled to Bangkok for treatment for a heart condition.
South Korea, currently battling the largest MERS outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, reported two more deaths and three new cases on Monday, bringing the number of fatalities to 27 and the total infections to 172.
In Thailand, although authorities said 176 people had been exposed to the MERS patient, Deputy Health Minister Vachira Pengchan said on Monday there were no new cases.
(Additional reporting by Manuphattr Dhanananphorn, Pracha Hariraksapitak, Kaweewit Kaewjinda and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Alex Richardson)