Police in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, have arrested a 27-year-old Nigerian man who fled there from Thailand after being diagnosed with monkeypox. He was Thailand’s first known case of monkeypox in the country.
A deputy governor of the Cambodian capital district, Keut Chhe, confirmed the arrest on Saturday afternoon at a market in Phnom Penh, according to the Khmer Times.
Upon his arrest, the 27-year-old man, identified as Osmond Chihazirim Nzerem, was handed over to the Cambodian Ministry of Health.
To find out where the Nigerian man has been and who he has had contact with since arriving in Cambodia, officials there have begun urgently tracing his movements. This will enable them to find out where he has been.
Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, said the man’s mobile phone signal was detected in a Thai border province on Friday.
In a briefing earlier on Saturday, Dr. Opas did not name the province or neighbouring country, but his presentation depicted Sa Kaeo, which borders Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia.
According to subsequent reports in Cambodia, the man might have been on his way to Sihanoukville, a seaside resort town. Khmer Times reports that he instead headed to Phnom Penh, where there is a large Nigerian expat community.
Monkeypox victim aided in fleeing Thailand
The 27-year-old Nigerian fled with the help of others, and the Royal Thai Police is seeking to take action against those that helped him escape, Opas said.
The incident has been widely reported on Facebook and mainstream media.
The deputy governor of Phuket, Pichet Panapong, said all he knew was that the man had left the island.
The Department of Disease Control has identified those who were in close contact with the patient, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
He said on Saturday that no new monkeypox cases had been reported. The department closely monitors everyone in the at-risk group, so do not worry.”
In October, the man reportedly boarded Ethiopian Airlines flight ET0618 with a non-immigrant visa to study at a university in Chiang Mai until January 18.
On July 16, the man presented to a Phuket private hospital after developing a fever, coughing, a sore throat, and a runny nose for a week. In addition, he had a rash and lesions on his genital area that spread to other parts of his body.
A doctor suspected the patient had monkeypox, so samples were sent for testing. Monkeypox was confirmed by the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Centre on Tuesday. The Department of Disease Control conducted tests later to confirm this.
Later, the hospital tried to contact the man to tell him to go to the state-run Vachira Phuket Hospital for treatment. However, he had turned off his mobile phone. The officials travelled to his apartment in the Kathu district to arrange treatment, but he wasn’t there.
According to Mr. Pichet, two people who had been in close contact with the Nigerian patient had their blood samples tested, and the results were negative. The deputy governor added that the taxi driver who transported the infected man was being tested for blood on Saturday.
On Saturday, the head of the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency following a surge in cases.
The classification is the highest level of alert that the WHO can issue. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 16,000 cases had been reported from 75 countries, including Thailand and now Cambodia.