Monkeypox reaches PH; DOH looks to USA for jabs

GLOBAL EMERGENCY A man in New York who recovered from monkey pox shows scars from rashes on his skin in a photo taken July 19. —AFP

The Department of Health (DOH) reported the first case of monkeypox in the Philippines on Friday and officials said they were trying to obtain vaccines and drugs for the viral disease from the United States Agency for Health. international development (USAID).

The 31-year-old Filipino who returned from overseas early July 19 had already recovered but was still in isolation at home, according to Undersecretary of Health Beverly Ho. She said 10 people identified as contacts relatives, including three from the patient’s household, had been quarantined.

The person had previously traveled to countries with documented cases of monkeypox, she added without giving further details.

Around 70 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks and confirmed cases have topped 20,300, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency on July 23. . The WHO reported five deaths from January 1 to July 22.

The Filipino case was confirmed positive on Thursday and the close contacts showed no symptoms, Ho said.

An infected person would have a chickenpox-like rash or sores on the skin and would also experience flu-like symptoms.

Ho said the DOH plans to obtain a compassionate special permit (CSP) for monkeypox vaccines and drugs.

She told reporters Thursday that the DOH was in “constant communication” with its counterparts and USAID to get monkeypox shots and medicine.

Method of treatment

These vaccines would only be for a “selected population group” that is most at risk of contracting the disease.

“It’s not like COVID that we all have to be vaccinated,” Ho said.

The primary mode of treatment, she said, was still “supportive therapy.” This involves relieving symptoms to prevent the patient’s condition from getting worse. “Medication will be helpful in case the case is not straightforward,” Ho said.

During a briefing in Malacanang on Friday, the health official said current regulations for the emergency use of vaccines and drugs only cover COVID-19. Monkeypox vaccines should get a CSP from the Food and Drug Administration so they can be used “as soon as possible,” she said.

Preventive measures

After the disease was detected in countries where it was not endemic in early May, the DOH issued interim technical guidelines for the surveillance, testing, management and infection control of monkeypox.

This was followed by the establishment of the Philippine Inter-agency on Committee on Zoonosis (PhilCZ) chaired by the DOH with the Departments of Environment and Agriculture as members.

In June, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM), which had been designated as the main isolation center, was able to “optimize” its test device to detect the monkeypox virus.

But the RITM said it would only treat those who “meet the definition of a suspected case of monkeypox” – one who has rashes accompanied by fever, severe headache, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes ), back pain, myalgia (muscle pain) and intense asthenia (lack of energy).

DOH guidelines on the management of monkeypox, which it urged health care providers and local governments to follow, direct officials to: Isolate, counsel, and report suspected cases of monkeypox; rule out other illnesses and test for the virus; treat symptoms and isolate for 21 days; advising households and institutions on minimum public health standards; and increase awareness of monkeypox through verified information.

sexual contact

Health authorities say transmission of the disease can occur through contact with skin lesions caused by the virus, as well as bodily fluids, large respiratory droplets and contaminated bedding.

“Our (public health surveillance) systems are in place. But we all have to work together. We also need the public to be vigilant,” Ho said.

“Based on what we know about monkeypox… it’s very clear that more care needs to be taken about the people we interact with, especially sexual and intimate contact,” she said.

Publicist Tixie Cruz Angeles said President Marcos’ “primary concern” was to get information out there so people know.

Countries where monkeypox is not endemic but with confirmed cases include nine in Asia, 35 in Europe, seven in the Middle East and Africa and 18 in the Americas.

Monkeypox is a disease that is zoonotic, or can be transmitted by animals. Animals associated with it are squirrels, African dormouse, Gambian pouch rat, and sooty mangabey.

It is endemic in the African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Not difficult to handle

Dr Rontgene Solante, head of the adult infectious disease unit at San Lazaro Hospital, told the Inquirer that the disease was “not too difficult to manage” because it was “not as complicated than COVID-19”.

“Our experience with COVID will help us in terms of room allocation for isolation and clinical management diagnosis. But there are some important things we need to know about this monkeypox and why it’s not difficult to manage,” Solante said.

“Most patients will only have mild to moderate symptoms, mostly skin lesions,” he said.

Patient care involved less use of equipment to manage COVID-19, such as mechanical ventilators. Patients with monkeypox can simply isolate themselves at home and not need hospital care, he added.

But Solante said more efforts should be made to build health care detection and treatment capabilities, such as expanding testing capacity and including specialist centers, such as clinics for sexually transmitted diseases. diseases (STDs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and dermatology, to administer patient care and treatment.

“[In the] current epidemic, 95% are men who have sex with men, and the most common transmission is an STD-like skin lesion,” Solante said.

He also highlighted the need to raise awareness to prevent stigma and discrimination among gay men, who are the segment of the population most affected by the ongoing global epidemic.

In a statement on Friday, the DOH said an investigation of recent cases indicated “potential transmission through sexual contact.”

“Minimize close sexual contact with suspected cases, especially those with rashes or open sores. Keep hands clean. Wear a face mask, cover the cough with your elbow and choose areas with good air circulation,” he said. WITH A REPORT BY REUTERS

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