“Patient shows symptoms after trip abroad, gov’t seeks US vax vs. virus”
The Philippines has detected its first case of monkeypox, only days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the disease a global health emergency.
“The case had prior travel to countries with documented monkeypox cases,” said Health Undersecretary Dr. Beverly Ho, who did not specify the gender of the person, saying only that the patient was 31 years old.
Ho advised those with a history of travel in countries with confirmed monkeypox cases and are now experiencing
symptoms—a fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes—to immediately seek medical attention.
She said 10 close contacts—three of them from the patient’s household—have been advised to go into quarantine and were being monitored by the department.
A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since 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 have now been reported to the organization from 78 countries, with 70 percent of them in Europe and 25 percent in the Americas.
Five deaths have been reported in the outbreak since May, he said.
Ghebreyesus, who last Saturday declared monkeypox a global health emergency, told reporters that the best way to protect against infection was “to reduce the risk of exposure”.
“For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed,” he said.
The Philippines sought to head off potential panic, saying monkeypox was not like COVID-19.
“This is not like COVID that can be spread by air very easily and could possibly be fatal,” said Trixie Cruz-Angeles, press secretary for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “This is not particularly fatal.”
Ho said the Philippines was working with the United States to secure monkeypox vaccines.
She added that only a select group of the population would have to be vaccinated.
In June, US health authorities said they were immediately releasing 56,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine — five times the number distributed so far — to areas of high transmission as part of a major escalation of the country’s immunization strategy.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommended monkeypox vaccines be offered to those who had confirmed exposures.
Ho advised those with travel history in countries with confirmed monkeypox cases and are now experiencing symptoms to immediately seek medical attention.
Monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal or contaminated materials, the DOH said.
A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
The first symptoms can include a fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes.
Rashes subsequently appear on the face, the palms of hands, and the soles of the feet, followed by lesions, spots, and finally scabs.
Ninety-five percent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Overall, 98 percent of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and around a third were known to have visited sex-on-site venues such as sex parties or saunas within the previous month.
“There is a very clear need to be more careful who we interact with, particularly sexual intimate contact,” Ho said. “We are working closely with those population groups so that they will have better preparation, risk perception that this is a disease that will probably concern them more than the general population.”
Also on Friday, Abra Rep. Ching Bernos filed a bill to create a uniform national response towards public health emergencies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic caught us off-guard, with preventive measures from the time of SARS not enough to push back against COVID,” Bernos said. “With the potential pandemic-level diseases lurking around the corner, we need an initial response to ensure the safety of our people.”
Bernos, in filing the bill, seeks to comprehensively address not only medical concerns during a public health emergency, but also the creation of social and economic relief programs.