Philippines detects first monkeypox case

Gillan Ropero, Job Manahan, and Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2022 01:58 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2022 04:31 PM

An Indian health worker walks in front of a list of high-risk countries for the Monkeypox virus, as India reported the first case of Monkeypox in the WHO South-East Asia Region, at Chennai International Airport, in Chennai, India, July 16, 2022. Idrees Mohammed, EPA-EFE
An Indian health worker walks in front of a list of high-risk countries for the Monkeypox virus, as India reported the first case of Monkeypox in the WHO South-East Asia Region, at Chennai International Airport, in Chennai, India, July 16, 2022. Idrees Mohammed, EPA-EFE

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The Philippines announced its first case of monkeypox on Friday, nearly a week after the World Health Organization declared the infectious disease a global health emergency.

The case was detected in a 31-year-old Filipino who arrived from abroad last July 19, according to Health Undersecretary Beverly Ho, who serves as the Department of Health's alternate spokesperson.

The patient, who had prior travel histories in countries with documented monkeypox cases, tested positive on Thursday after an RT-PCR test, Ho said. 

"The case has been discharged well and is undergoing strict isolation and monitoring at home," she told reporters. "The case is recovering well at home."

Ten close contacts, including 3 in the same household, were identified with no symptoms so far, Ho added. 

"Our systems are in place but we all need to work together, we also need the public to be vigilant, especially the key population group who are at most risk," Ho said.

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MONKEYPOX SPREAD, SYMPTOMS, VACCINE 

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 78 countries, with 70 percent of cases reported in Europe and 25 percent in the Americas. 

Five deaths have been reported in the outbreak since May, and around 10 percent of those infected end up in hospital to manage the pain, he said. 

The WHO said human-to-human transmission "can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects."

"Transmission via droplet respiratory particles usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact, which puts health workers, household members and other close contacts of active cases at greater risk," it said. 

Investigation of recent monkeypox cases in non-endemic countries indicates potential transmission through sexual contact, Ho said.

"It spreads mostly through intimate sexual contact with those who have rashes or open lesions. It's not like COVID-19 that's spread mostly through air," she said.

The public is urged to avoid having sexual contact with individuals who have rashes or open lesions, wear face masks, keep their hands clean, and observe good ventilation in an area, Ho added.

The first symptoms of monkeypox can include a fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes.

Around 1 to 3 days after the appearance of a fever, a rash can turn into painful, fluid-filled skin lesions. After a few days or weeks, the lesions or sores turn into scabs, before falling off. 

The DOH earlier said it was looking into procuring smallpox vaccines that also work against monkeypox.

 
The agency will have to secure compassionate special permit for the jabs as the law only allows granting of emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines.

"Only a select population is going to be vaccinated. It's not like COVID," Ho said.

PALACE, DOH: WE ARE READY

Malacañang and DOH said the country was prepared to handle a global health emergency like monkeypox, with protocols that include symptom checks and quarantine. 

The health department said close contacts of a monkeypox patient need to quarantine from 14 to 21 days from the onset of symptoms. They need to be observed during that period. 

The agency said close contacts of a monkeypox patient need to quarantine from 14 to 21 days from the onset of symptoms. They need to be observed during that period. 

The Bureau of Quarantine has screening questions for arriving passengers, while airports enforce temperature checks.

Malacañang sought to head off potential panic, saying monkeypox was not like COVID-19.

"It's only one case. Number 2, it does not affect the entire population. Number 3, this is not like COVID that can be spread by air easily and could possibly fatal," said Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles. 

"This is not particularly fatal but it is of concern," she added. 

 — With a report from Agence France-Presse 

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