Thailand has confirmed that a foreign traveller in Bangkok has been diagnosed with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The patient is a 71-year-old man from Oman, who arrived in Thailand to seek medical treatment for persistent cough and fever. He had arrived in Bangkok on Friday after treatment in his home country did not offer relief to the symptoms. Bangkok is a favourite destination for people from the Middle East seeking advanced medical treatment.

"After taking a taxi to a hotel, he was checked for the virus at a hospital and the MERS virus was found," Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said, according to Asiaone. "This case was found quickly, so the public should not panic," he added.

The patient is now treated at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Officials said they have quarantined 37 people who had contact with the man. His family members, the taxi driver and passengers who sat near him in the flight etc are being monitored.

What is MERS?

MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), WHO has said.

It is believed that humans can be infected through direct or indirect contact with infected camels in the Middle East. Strains of MERS-CoV have been identified in camels in several countries, including Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Transmission from humans to humans happens mostly through close personal contact with the infected person.

The symptoms of MERS are mostly fever, cough, shortness of breath, pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea. Severe cases cause respiratory failure.

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available for MERS.

According to the World Health Organisation, 586 people have died from the virus globally since its outbreak in 2012. There have been 1,626 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection so far and the virus has been found in 26 countries.

In Thailand, the first infection was confirmed in an Omani man last year. He survived the disease.