PH logs first Monkeypox case; CV ready to handle outbreak

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THE Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Friday, July 29, 2022, the first case of Monkeypox in the Philippines.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Health Undersecretary Beverly Ho said the patient was a 31-year-old returning overseas Filipino.

The patient, who was tested and confirmed on July 28, has already been tagged as recovered.

Ho said the case’s 10 close contacts are not showing any symptoms of the disease but they are in quarantine. She said the quarantine period is between 14 to 21 days.

She said systems are in place to detect Monkeypox-carrying travelers to the country. She said it is being led by the Bureau of Quarantine.

“Monkeypox is caused by a micro-organism different from Covid-19; investigation of recent Monkeypox cases in other non-endemic countries indicates potential transmission through sexual contact,” said Ho.

“It spreads mostly by intimate sexual contact with those who have rashes and open lesions. It is not like Covid-19 which spreads mostly through air,” she added.

Ho advised the public to be more cautious about whom they interact with, especially sexual intimate contact.

She said discussion about the country’s access to Monkeypox vaccines is ongoing.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. instructed the DOH to strengthen information dissemination about Monkeypox, especially on how to avoid getting infected.

Monkeypox is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.

Central Visayas

Last Tuesday, July 26, Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH 7) Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (Resu) said they had received two suspected cases of the viral disease, a two-year-old boy from Bohol and a 26-year-old male from Cebu.

Fortunately, both suspected cases yielded negative results in the test on the samples submitted to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and a laboratory in the region, Cañal said during a press briefing.

Cañal said the region is ready to handle a Monkeypox outbreak.

“Yes, we are (ready), because we have already gone through Covid (coronavirus disease) where there were deaths left and right and all of our hospitals had been flagged, especially (when) the delta (variant struck). We really responded well when the Omicron surge happened,” Cañal said in a mix of Cebuano and English, referring to the Covid-19 waves from the second to third quarters of 2021 and in the first quarter of 2022.

The Resu official said hospitalization was not necessary for monkeypox cases unless there were complications.

“Isolation is really the important thing (to do) once we have these cases,” she said.

“The containment measures are easier because the transmission is by direct contact. It’s not airborne. It’s not droplets. It cannot be transmitted even if you are one foot away but out of reach, meaning it’s easy to contain,” DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said.

Cañal said Monkeypox is associated with a history of travel and that the DOH Central Office already had a list of the countries with the most number of cases of the disease.

First on the list is the United States, followed by Spain, then Germany, the United Kingdom and France. These countries have the most cases, numbering in the thousands.

Cañal said Monkeypox is similar to chickenpox or at times, measles “because it will always come first with fever and then there are also skin lesions.”

It starts with rashes that eventually break out into blisters.

“Sa monkeypox lang kay naa siya’y lisay-lisay, which sometimes di makit-an sa chickenpox pero makit-an sa measles,” Cañal said.

Cañal said the three are viral diseases that usually start with a fever that subsides after three to four days. But after another three to fours days, the skin rashes or pus-filled lesions will emerge, which causes the public to panic.

Suspected cases

Dr. Cañal noted that the two suspected cases in the Central Visayas had no history of travel.

In the case of the two-year-old child in Bohol, the current clinical presentation was leaning toward chickenpox, while for the 26-year old male in Cebu City, the possible medical presentation was folliculitis, a disease involving rashes that resulted in skin lesions.

A barangay health worker alerted Bohol health authorities to the case, while in Cebu, the report on the suspected case came from a hospital.

Surveillance

The official said surveillance was number one among the measures in responding to any outbreak. She recommended the training of more barangay health workers in the region to identify and assess any notifiable disease and report it immediately.

“Our networking is good. We’ve slowly established that not only the hospital will be able to report, but also the local government units down to the grassroots. Actually, we started the training last year. In fact, we have a Regional Advisory to train all the barangay health workers and midwives about cases. This is not highfalutin training but focused on syndromic. If anyone feels these symptoms, it should be reported,” Cañal added.

Global emergency

Last July 24, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries a global emergency.

Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

WHO’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said last week that 99 percent of all the monkeypox cases beyond Africa were in men, and that of those, 98 percent involved men who have sex with men. Experts suspect the monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were spread via sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain. / SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES

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