What is monkeypox? DOH says ready to detect, contain disease

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2022 04:57 PM | Updated as of May 24 2022 05:57 PM

MANILA - The Department of Health is ready to detect and contain the monkeypox virus, an official said Tuesday.

The Philippines has not tallied any case of the infectious disease which is endemic in parts of Africa and has recently emerged in 12 countries, sparking concern that it is spreading. 

Monkeypox will be classified as a notifiable disease, in which all patients under investigation and cases will be required to report to the Epidemiology Bureau (EB) and Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit, according to Dr. Alethea de Guzman, officer-in-charge of the DOH-EB.

The country is also intensifying its border screening, De Guzman said.

"Nais naming i-reassure ang publiko na handa ang ating kagawaran na matukoy at mapigilan ang monkeypox virus," she told reporters.

(We would like to reassure the public that the department is ready to identify and contain the monkeypox virus.)

All samples of suspected cases will undergo laboratory confirmation via RT-PCR or whole genome sequencing, De Guzman said.

"Ang mga local governments at health facilities ay nakaantabay para agarang makapag-investigate, backtrace at contact trace kung may mga suspect, probable or confirmed case na tayo ng monkeypox," she said.

(All local governments and health facilities are on standby to investigate, backtrace and contact trace if there are suspect, probable or confirmed cases.)

"Ipatutupad din ang agarang isolation at quarantine kasabay ng mahigpit na pagpapatupad ng infection prevention and control protocols."

(We will also implement immediate isolation and quarantine along with strict enforcement of infection prevention and control protocols.)

WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?

 

The monkeypox virus comes from the Orthopoxvirus genus and is a viral zoonotic disease, which means it is transmitted from animals to people, according to Dr. Marissa Alejandria, member of the DOH-technical advisory group on infectious diseases.

It is transmitted through unprotected contact via respiratory droplets and has an incubation period of 5 to 21 days, Alejandria said. Symptoms usually include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, headache, chills, sore throat, malaise, and fatigue, she added.

Enlarged lymph nodes distinguishes monkeypox from smallpox, said Alejandria.

Rashes begin to form in 2 to 4 weeks, with lesions often appearing in the same stage of development and more dense in the face, she said. The lesions can have clear fluid or pus and appear crusty when nearing recovery, she added.

Monkeypox has up to 10 percent case fatality rate, according to Alejandria.

The public is urged to observe the following health protocols to prevent infections. 

  • Avoid unprotected close contact with infected people
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • Do not share bedding, clothing, utensils with sick people 
  • Thoroughly cook all foods containing animal meat or parts
  • Use personal protective equipment when caring for patients
  • Avoid contact with wild animals, especially those found sick or dead
  • Isolate infected patients in hospitals or at home

The smallpox vaccine can protect against monkeypox but it has a "very minimal" supply as the disease has been eradicated in the 1980s, according to Alejandria.

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TREATMENT

There are no specific antiviral drugs for monkeypox and its management is symptomatic, which means antipyretics or paracetamol is given to those with fever, Alejandria said.

Lesions must be kept clean and dry and must not be scratched, she added.

"What we want to avoid is magkaroon ng secondary bacterial infection 'yung skin lesions," she said. "We want to avoid 'yung complications kasi young complications ang pwede maging cause of death. Pwede magkaroon ng pneumonia."

COVID-19 MORE TRANSMISSIBLE THAN MONKEYPOX

The public should be "more concerned" with COVID-19 as it has a higher attack rate, according to Alejandria.

"We have data on how it’s (monkeypox) transmitted. Nag-reemerge lang because of travel, environmental changes," she said.

"The difference is we at least we know, we have information knowledge about this disease. 'Di siya (it's not) totally new, unlike COVID."