There's no monkeypox detected in the Philippines so far amid reported cases in Europe, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the local Department of Health (DOH) announced May 20.
"DOH is intensifying screening at our borders and ensuring that surveillance systems are actively monitoring the situation," it said in a statement.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox is a rare viral disease similar to smallpox or bulutong as called locally, but milder.
It was first discovered in monkeys in 1958, hence the name. Though the WHO said rodents may also serve as hosts.
Monkeypox primarily occurs in Central and West Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, though there has been increasing appearances in urban areas.
There are two strains of the virus, the Congo Basin strain and the West African strain. The former is said to be more severe and more transmissible.
Signs and symptoms
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said incubation period from the onset of symptoms is usually 7 to 14 days, but can range from 5 to 21 days.
Monkeypox begins with:
- muscle aches
- swollen lymph nodes
Within one to three days after fever, sometimes even longer, the individual develops a rash that often begins on the face which then spreads to other parts of the body.
The illness typically lasts for two to four weeks.
The CDC said 1 in 10 people die of the disease in Africa. The WHO said fatality rate among the general population ranged from 0 to 11%, and is now at 3 to 6%.
Monkeypox spreads between humans and/or animals via close contact—infected skin lesions, exhaled droplets, body fluids, sex—or contact with contaminated materials like clothings or linens.
The WHO said that according to studies, vaccination against smallpox was found to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.
Smallpox vaccine, however, has already been phased out in 1980 after the disease was eradicated.
The U.S. CDC recommends avoiding contact with animals that could harbor the virus or materials like beddings that have been in contact with the animal. Infected patients must also be isolated from others.
As for the local DOH, it advised Filipinos to observe minimum public health standards, including wearing fitted masks, ensuring good airflow, keeping one's hands clean, and observing physical distance.
"These also protect us against COVID-19," the DOH noted.
Cases abroad could be attributed to increased travel amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Health experts, however, asked the public not to panic.
“Historically, there have been very few cases exported. It has only happened eight times in the past before this year,” said Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“This isn’t going to cause a nationwide epidemic as COVID did," Whitworth added, "but it’s a serious outbreak of a serious disease—and we should take it seriously."