By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BANGKOK — Thailand announced on Tuesday its first confirmed cases of swine flu in two people who recently returned from Mexico and have recovered from the illness.
Health Minister Witthaya Keawparadai declined to disclose the identities of the patients, citing doctor-patient confidentiality and the fact that their conditions had improved.
"The two patients have received a full dose of antiviral medicine and have returned to live normal lives," Witthaya said. "There is no outbreak in Thailand."
The cases in Thailand also marked the official arrival of swine flu in Southeast Asia. Other countries on the continent have reported cases, including China, Japan and South Korea.
Following the confirmation, Witthaya said the country's public health officials will step up surveillance by setting up more thermal scanners at airports and border checkpoints.
"We will have to be even more vigilant," he said. "We will also make sure our mobile medical teams are ready to be dispatched in case there is a case and to check on those who had possible contact with patients."
Witthaya said one of the patients had a fever upon returning from Mexico and the other developed a temperature three days after getting back to Thailand, declining to say when that was.
Authorities have contacted passengers who traveled on the same flight as the two patients and "no one has presented any symptoms," said Kumnuan Ungchusak, an official at Thailand's Department of Communicable Disease Control.
Health authorities sent samples from both patients last week to the U.S. Center for Disease Control for final testing, Witthaya said.
Authorities have also monitored eight people close to both patients for a week and none registered any symptoms, Witthaya said. He said an additional 10 people in Thailand were being monitored for swine flu.
Fourteen Thais who returned from an exchange program in Mexico earlier this month were taken to a hospital for observation. All tested negative.
Kumnuan said Thailand has a stockpile of 1.32 million tablets of the anti-flu medicine oseltamivir, and the Health Ministry is expected to buy more raw materials to locally produce at least another 2 million tablets.
Meanwhile, Malaysian football officials have canceled next month's Intercontinental Cup under-23 tournament due to the threat of the spread of swine flu, local media reported on Tuesday.
The Football Association of Malaysia canceled the eight-team tournament after consulting with the nation's Health Ministry, the New Straits Times reported.
Among the teams that had been expected to contest the June 1-14 tournament were Brazil, Mexico and South Korea, which have confirmed cases of swine flu.
"The cancellation of the Intercontinental Cup is due to the threat posed by the influenza virus outbreak which has affected several countries," the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) said in a statement quoted in the domestic media.
"FAM referred the matter to the Health Ministry, and after close consultation with various parties, a conclusion to cancel the tournament was reached as the well-being of those involved comes first."
The number of countries reporting swine flu cases stands at 31, with the World Health Organization confirming about 4,800 cases. At least 61 people have been killed by swine flu around the world: 56 in Mexico, three in the U.S., one in Canada and one in Costa Rica.
The so-called A (H1N1) virus, which is thought to have originated in Mexico, has left Asia relatively unscathed and authorities in the region are taking few chances with its possible spread.
In precautionary measures, competitors arriving in Thailand for next week's youth world weightlifting championships will be monitored by thermal scanners at airports in a bid to identify possible infection, Thai media reported.
Any competitor or support staff appearing unwell, with high body temperature or flu-like symptoms, will be quarantined and forbidden to join the competition, the Nation newspaper reported.