Philippines detects first monkeypox case

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2:53 p.m.) — The Philippines has detected its first case of the monkeypox virus, the Department of Health announced Friday.

The infected person is a 31-year-old Filipino who arrived from overseas on July 19. Beverly Ho, the agency’s deputy spokesperson, said the case had prior travel to countries with documented monkeypox cases.

The case who tested positive on July 28. The patient’s clinical information and gender were not disclosed.

According to Ho, the country’s first monkeypox case is undergoing strict isolation and monitoring at home.

Authorities identified 10 close contacts, including three from the case’s household. The close contacts are not manifesting any symptoms and are being monitored.

“The DOH assures everyone our public health surveillance systems are able to detect and confirm monkeypox cases,” Ho said.

The health official added the government is securing vaccines to protect people from getting monkeypox. But she stressed that not everyone needs to be immunized against the virus.

Global health emergency

The World Health Organization declared Saturday the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency. More than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 78 countries.

According to the WHO, monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash, including through face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact.

Most — but not all — cases in the current outbreak were men who have sex with men. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week found that 98% of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and 95% of cases were transmitted through sexual activity.

But experts say the transmission of the disease appears to mainly happen during close, physical contact, and monkeypox has so far not been labelled a sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

Experts also warn against thinking that only one community can be affected by the disease, stressing that it spreads through regular skin-to-skin contact, and also through droplets or touching contaminated bedding or towels in a household setting.

“We need the public to be vigilant, particularly the key population groups who are at most risk… There is a very clear need to be more careful about how we interact with particularly sexual intimate contact,” Ho said.

“We’re working closely with those groups so they will have better preparations, risk perception that this is a disease that would probably concern them more than the general population,” she added.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, intense headache, swelling of lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches, lack of energy, and rash that can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on the administration to double the surveillance capacity of the DOH and improve the screening of suspected monkeypox cases, but she expressed confidence in the current DOH leadership. Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire is currently heading the agency as its officer-in-charge.— with report from Agence France-Presse

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