MANILA—The Department of Health said it is intensifying border screening and surveillance amid clusters of the monkeypox virus detected in several European and North American countries.
In a statement on Friday, the DOH said that monkeypox “has not been detected in the Philippines or at its borders.”
Existing measures for COVID-19 are also effective in protecting against monkeypox, it said.
“Minimum public health standards will prevent monkeypox transmission: wear your best-fitted mask, ensure good airflow, keep hands clean and keep physical distance,” the DOH said.
Monkeypox, a viral disease belonging to the orthopoxvirus family, is endemic in Central and West Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, one of the seven confirmed cases in the UK had a travel history to Nigeria.
“We are working very closely with our regional office, with European CDC and primarily the UK Health Security Agency to evaluate each of these cases, the source of their infection, forward contact tracing to ensure there isn’t more human to human transmission as well as back contact tracing to better understand the source of their infection,” WHO Technical Lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said in a virtual briefing.
Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO’s assistant director for general emergency response, said that transmission is seen among men who have sex with men.
“This is new information, we need to investigate properly to understand better the dynamics of local transmission in UK and some other countries,” he said.
“But clearly, the men problem we need to investigate to really know the extent of monkeypox transmission and making sure we invest in tools for prevention and treatment for people are most exposed in Africa.”
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, says “symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than that of small pox.”
Among the symptoms of monkeypox are fever, headache, muscle and backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
Rashes may also begin to appear on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said eruptions on skin may also occur.
“The most dangerous part there is when it erupts, the bulous or water inside that is highly infectious, full of virus. That’s where some will be infected with close contact. Even sa cloth. 'Yung damit mo na-contaminated ng erupted clusters, 'yung vesicular rashes, 'yung discharge tapos hahawakan ng tao 'yan tapos merong open wound, he can get the infection,” he said.
The disease is said to be usually self-limiting with symptoms lasting anywhere between two to four weeks. The WHO says severe cases more commonly occur among children with underlying immune problems leading to worse outcomes.
Among the complications of monkeypox are bronchopneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis and infection of the cornea usually followed by loss of vision.
With the COVID-19 pandemic becoming more manageable in the Philippines, Solante said the country must remain on its toes to avoid the possibility of an infected person making it through the border and eventually transmitting the virus to others.
“We are opening already to tourists and in the data in the UK and US, all of those patients did not have history of travel to Africa. So meaning, the possibility of anyone who has this infection coming from these countries and exposing our locals, can be a possible source of the infection," he said.
While monkeypox may be a cause for concern, COVID-19 remains to be the more imminent threat.
“Our group is only monitoring the numbers. The more important part is if and when it will be present in Southeast Asian country, then that’s when we will need to, not panic, but closely review our policies in terms of entry of tourists and foreigners in our country,” Solante said.