Close-up of monkeypox lesions on the arm and leg of a female child. Human infection with monkeypox-like virus in 4 year-old female in Bondua, Grand Gedeh County, Liberia. This infection was caused by a pox virus of the vaccinia, variola, monkeypox type. (This image is a work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain through Wikipedia.)

The Department of Health (DOH) in MIMAROPA allayed public concerns regarding the rare monkeypox disease, which has been detected in several European nations.

Dr. Ma. Vilma Diez, assistant regional director of the DOH, stated that the infectious disease has not yet been detected in the Philippines, therefore people should not be alarmed but should be aware about what it is.

She stated that monkeypox is an infectious disease that occurs in rats and is transmitted to people. The initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, lymph node enlargement, and fatigue.

“Wala pa naman yan sa Pilipinas. Nakita po yan sa Europa, meron na rin paisa-isa sa America, at saka sa UK. Ang sa kanila, sa UK, ay sexually transmitted — puwedeng ang sexual contact ay makakahawa,” she said in a virtual press conference Monday.

“Hindi naman tayo dapat mabahala sa ngayon dahil wala naman siya sa Pilipinas, at ito naman ay babantayan ng ating Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), babantayan ito ng DOH, and hindi naman po ito ganoon kabilis kumalat kapareho ng COVID,” she added.

Dr. Diez said the World Health Organization (WHO) is already on alert against monkeypox, and what people should do is to raise their awareness about the disease.

If an individual is infected, she said, management is “self-limiting,” meaning paracetamol can be given if a fever develops. “Kung nagtatae, bigyan mo ng Orisol, parang ganoon, symptomatic treatment pa lang po ang meron siya. Wala pang bakuna sa monkeypox sa ngayon”.

She claimed that monkeypox has a 10% mortality rate and does not spread easily or rapidly.

Monkeypox entry possible through travelers
The entry of the rare monkeypox virus in the Philippines is possible through travelers carrying the infection, an infectious disease expert said Monday.

In a televised public briefing, Vaccine Experts Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante said monkeypox, endemic in parts of Central and West Africa, has been detected in countries with “high-tech healthcare facilities”.

“With travel, you know now the possibility of one infection, a person carrying the infection can also travel a lot and can also enter a country that’s where the vulnerability of most population, when one has the infection incubating and then arriving in the Philippines and develop the symptoms upon arrival or after the arrival,” he said.

According to the WHO, the disease has recently emerged in 12 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The WHO said it is caused by the monkeypox virus which is transmitted with lesions, body fluids, and respiratory droplets.

“For the monkeypox, the most common human to human route of transmission or mode of transmission is only respiratory droplets so meaning within three feet talking to each other without any face mask that’s the mode of transmission,” Solante said.

In terms of transmissibility, Solante noted that COVID-19 is more transmissible over monkeypox as it can be spread in several ways.

“Aside from the droplets, you also have airborne because of a very small particle, it can remain in the air and you’ll be exposed, that’s another way and there’s also contact transmission,” he said.

Nonetheless, it could be prevented with similar minimum public health protocols observed during COVID-19 pandemic.

The government continues to monitor the outbreak of monkeypox overseas but the closure of the country’s borders is still unlikely. (with a report from Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)