MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said that while monkeypox may be spread via sexual intercourse, it is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
"Kailangan natin ipaalala sa mga tao, hindi lang po yan ang means of transmission, anybody can get monkeypox, hindi tayo pwede magfocus na sexually transmitted lang. Kailangan lahat ng tao aware and vigilant that they can also get this if they will not affect themselves,” DOH Officer-in- Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.
The clarification comes as monkeypox victims are stigmatized, after World Health Organization revealed that a large part of the population infected by the virus are men who engage in sex with other men.
"People who are most at risk at this time are men who have sex with men in most countries but not all countries in the world, which is also why it's very important to pay attention to what's happening in your local region,” WHO Health Emergency Programme Technical Lead for Monkeypox Dr. Rosamund Lewis said Thursday.
"This is not an infection among the gay or bisexual, this is not an infection among the HIV positive, this is an infection that everybody or anyone is at risk,” infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said.
Monkeypox can be transmitted through other means unrelated to intercourse.
Monkeypox can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, particularly in intimate close contact.
It can also be spread through contact with monkeypox lesions, and through contact with respiratory secretions such as saliva or droplets from an infected individual.
It can also be transmitted by touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
The three symptoms the public should look out for to identify possible monkeypox cases are fever, swelling of lymph nodes, and rashes or poxes.
Vergeire emphasized the importance of isolation upon first onset of symptoms.
"Ang monkeypox nakakahawa siya as soon as symptoms start. 'Pag nag-umpisa na nagkalagnat, may iba nang sintomas, nag-uumpisa rin na infectious na ang pasyente. Natatapos ang kaniyang infectious period kapag nagresolve na rin po na ang rashes niya. Kaya importante po that isolation is strict. 'Yung 21 days na sinasabi natin at masusunod ng pasyente. At kailangan resolved na ang symptoms niya bago po siya makalabas at maka interact sa ibang tao,” she said.
However, unlike COVID-19 and the more infectious chickenpox, monkeypox is not airborne.
A person who has had chickenpox can also still get monkeypox.
"Magkaibang virus ang monkeypox at chickenpox, magkaiba ang immunity diyan. Sa chickenpox pwede magkaroon ulit noon. To answer the question, pwede magka-monkeypox kahit nagka chickenpox na,” Dr. Joseph Buensalido of the Infection PRevention and Control Committe at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center said.
Recovery can take up to 2 to 4 weeks, or until lesions from monkeypox have healed and dried, with scabs removed naturally.
While the death toll remains low for monkeypox, its nature as a viral infection can still pose risks to the immunocompromised.
A portion of the 5 reported deaths died due to encephalitis, or brain inflammation.
"One of the complications of monkeypox is encephalitis, being a viral infection, it ca also go to the brain and cause this. This is the reason why in the setting where it is not endemic, if someone immunocompromised is infected, you have a higher risk to develop this monkeypox virus,” Solante said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday said the country’s surveillance and monitoring systems are in place to contain further entry of the virus to the Philippines.
“Kagaya ng lahat ng sakit, kailangan malinis din ang mga kamay natin, mag ingat tayo sa sanitation, mga bagay bagay na ganyan. Sa ngayon ang monkeypox talagang nakabantay tayo, sanay na tayo sa COVID. Nakabantay tayo ng husto,” Marcos Jr. said.