The Department of Health (DOH) has developed a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to detect possible monkeypox virus cases in the country.
In an advisory Wednesday, the DOH said its Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) “successfully optimized” the PCR assay for monkeypox cases “as part of the national preparedness and response to the threats of [the] disease.”
The RITM technical team is also working on a second PCR assay for differentiating the monkeypox virus clades or groupings is also being worked on, the department added.
This developed as South Korea reported its first imported cases of monkeypox Wednesday, becoming the latest of some 40 countries—and the first in East Asia—to have identified the disease.
A South Korean national in their 30s who arrived from Germany on Tuesday was confirmed to have contracted the viral disease, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The patient, whose identity has been withheld, developed a fever lastweekend and symptoms worsened to include fatigue and skin rash when they arrived in the country, Peck Kyong-ran, the disease control agency chief, told reporters.
The patient reported to the authorities at the airport before they came into close contact with others and is now receiving treatment, Peck added. Further details of the person’s condition have not been made public.
Based on DOH’s Department Memorandum 2022-0220 or the “Interim Guidelines for the Implementation of Monkeypox Surveillance, Screening, Management, and Infection Control,” samples will only be collected from all individuals fitting case definitions for suspect or probable case of monkeypox.
Their samples will then be coordinated with the DOH Epidemiology Bureau for referral to the appropriate laboratory facility for confirmatory testing.
In DOH’s case classification, an individual is considered a “suspected case” if he or she shows an unexplained acute rash and one or more of the following symptoms: Headache; Acute onset of fever (>38.5°C); Myalgia (muscle aches); Back pain; Asthenia (physical weakness); and Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes).
Meanwhile, a person is considered a “probable case” if he or she meets the definition for a suspected case and one or more of the following:
• Has an epidemiological link (face-to-face exposure, including health care workers without respiratory protection; direct physical contact with skin or skin lesions, including sexual contact; or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing, bedding, or utensils) to a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox in the 21 days before symptom onset;
• Reported travel history to a monkeypox endemic country in the 21 days before symptom onset;
• Has had multiple sexual partners in the 21 days before symptom onset; and
• Is hospitalized due to the illness.
DOH emphasized that suspected or probable monkeypox cases have to undergo home isolation for at least 21 days or until all symptoms, including any rash, crusting, or scabs are gone.
Travelers from countries with reported or ongoing cases of monkeypox, who are manifesting the monkeypox signs and symptoms, also have to coordinate with several government agencies for proper coordination and management.
They include the Philippine Embassy or the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the DOH Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration(OWWA), and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
DOH will also establish a Monkeypox Operation Center, while an Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will be activated once there is an observed increasing risk of monkeypox cases in the country.
The department said it is organizing training or orientation on the clinical approach to skin lesions, including the collection, handling, and transport of samples from skin lesions, to guide all of its Disease Reporting Units and Epidemiology and Surveillance Units.
Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma earlier said they are prepared to sequence any suspected monkeypox
samples in the country.
There is no vaccine against monkeypox yet that has been approved or authorized by the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
However, they are now discussing with the World Health Organization (WHO) where the country can procure monkeypox antivirals in case of an outbreak in the country.
DOH also previously announced that the country has adopted a “four-door” strategy in intensifying border control to prevent the entry of monkeypox virus into the country.
The first case of monkeypox in Southeast Asia this year was already detected in Singapore on Tuesday, as confirmed by its health ministry.
Monkeypox is a viral infection initially endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It spreads chiefly through close contact, and until the recent outbreak has only rarely been seen in other parts of the world. The majority of the recent cases have been reported in Europe.
Just recently, the WHO removed the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries in its data on monkeypox to better unify the response to the virus.
South Korea’s Peck urged people to report to authorities if they showed any symptoms after visiting countries coping with monkeypox infections, stressing it was “the most important thing in preventing the spread”.
The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.
Seoul’s Wednesday report came hours after Singapore announced its first imported case of the disease in this year’s outbreak.
The patient, a 42-year-old British flight attendant who had been flying in and out of Singapore, tested positive for monkeypox on
Singapore’s last case of monkeypox was detected in 2019.
So far, the recent outbreak of monkeypox has mainly affected men who have had sex with other men.
The World Health Organization said last week that Europe remained the epicenter of the global monkeypox outbreak.
The UN health body is due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.
The virus usually clears up after two or three weeks. With AFP