CEBU, Philippines — No case of monkeypox has been detected in the Philippines just yet, as of this writing, but Department of Health (DOH)-7 chief pathologist, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, said it is best to start educating the public about the infection and take precautionary measures and preparations necessary.
Learning from the experience with COVID-19, Loreche said Central Visayas and the rest of the country cannot afford to be caught off guard.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined Monkeypox as “a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.”
There are two clades of Monkeypox virus: the West African clade and the Congo Basin (Central African) clade.
The name Monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958 with the first human cases identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.
“Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of Monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.”
Some animals have also been identified as susceptible to the Monkeypox virus.
In its latest statement, WHO said the purpose of the announcement about the disease is “to raise awareness, inform readiness and response efforts, and provide technical guidance for immediate recommended actions.”
Based on the WHO latest report, there are now 12 countries that are not endemic for Monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions that have reported cases of the disease.
Best to be proactive Is there a cause for worry?
“It will be kind of difficult to say that we should not be worried. We have been hearing stories from the medical community like the Centers for Diseases and Control and the World Health Organization that there is nothing to worry as of the moment… when we say as of the moment, primarily because the cases that are being reported are still very, very few and far between,” Loreche said on The Freeman’s online talk program, The Freeman Conversations.
Loreche said being worried will allow people to put preventive measures in place.
“I would still say, being worried is a caution to be able to do the things that we should doing in prevention in terms of planning so we will not be caught off-guard again,” Loreche said.
She recalled the time in late 2019 when news broke about the COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China and how the world did not imagine the kind of havoc it would create in next two years.
“Like in Covid-19… Remember when the Wuhan virus came out in 2019? Everybody was saying, do not be worried, it’s not going to happen, it’s not gonna enter our shores… but where are we now?” Loreche said.
For now, it is best that people start learning and be aware of the Monkeypox so that they can take part in preventive measures.
“Monkeypox is not yet in our shores, the numbers are still being limited to be very, very concerned about it… it’s always best to educate the people so the awareness is already there,” Loreche said.
Loreche said that unlike in COVID-19, there is no definite test to spot Monkeypox early on but the same can be diagnosed clinically.
“Remember, this is similar, kamag-anak, magkapatid ito ng smallpox so it will be difficult today that the screening process that we will really have, will say na you may or may not have the Monkeypox with you… Remember, it being a virus may also be similar to adaptation to other viral illnesses… for example, fever, headache, muscle ache… weakness… but lumalaki ang ating mga kulani or lymph nodes…That sets it apart from the small pox… and of course rushes, series of events in the rushes,” Loreche said.
According to the DOH central office, Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact (wound, body fluids, respiratory droplets) with an infected person or animal, or even with contaminated materials.
DOH advisory also said it is less contagious and causes less severe illness than Smallpox. The danger, however, is among people who are immunocompromised or those whose immune response is weak.
“Pag-denownplay natin ang isang sakit… nang nagsisimula tayo dito SARS-Cov2… ang mga tao parang kampante lang sila… Although ang sabi nga dito although hindi nga ganun kagrabe ang sakit na pwede mong makuha kapag ikaw ay makakuha nitong Monkeypox, the problem is if it hits a person who is immunocompromised or has other diseases whose immune response is already very low, then it might develop complication,” Loreche said.
It is the complication that becomes the driver why the patient becomes severe, she said.
The good news is that the preventive measures against Monkeypox are practically already in place – the same health measures used in curbing COVID-19 infection, including wearing of best-fitted mask, good air flow, keeping hands clean, and physical distancing.
“Our minimum public health standards that we have applied to Sar-Cov2 can also be applied here kaya nga kahit ang flu virus na nandito na siya, hindi ganito ka-grabe dahil sa face mask,” Loreche said.
Since 13 May 2022, cases of Monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 12 member states that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions.
Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, however, reported cases have no established travel links to endemic areas, thus far, WHO said.
Based on currently available information, cases have mainly – but not exclusively – been identified amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.
“The situation is evolving and WHO expects there will be more cases of Monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries. Immediate actions focus on informing those who may be most at risk for Monkeypox infection with accurate information, in order to stop further spread. Current available evidence suggests that those who are most at risk are those who have had close physical contact with someone with Monkeypox, while they are symptomatic,” reads the WHO report.
As of May 21, 2022, there has been 92 laboratory confirmed cases, and 28 suspected cases of Monkeypox, from 12 different countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Monkeypox endemic countries include Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. – JMO (FREEMAN)