Philippines ready for monkeypox, says DoH

THE PHILIPPINES is prepared to combat a potential monkeypox outbreak, authorities said on Sunday, after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency due to its rapid spread worldwide.

The Department of Health (DoH) and its partners from both the public and private sectors have been preparing for the monkeypox virus since an uptick in cases was reported in other countries as early as May, Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, the agency’s officer-in-charge, said in a statement on Sunday.

Local health authorities have yet to detect the country’s first monkeypox case. “Up to now, there has been no finding in the Philippines that fits the definition of a suspect monkeypox case.”

“The clinical presentation is often explained by other diseases that look like monkeypox, but are not the same,” she said. “The DoH will keep the Filipino public updated with factual information.”

The WHO has declared monkeypox infection as a  public health emergency of international concern.

The monkeypox level was moderate globally except in Europe, where the risk is high, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference, based on an article published by Reuters.

The virus, which was first discovered in 1958, causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions. It spreads via contact.

Following the declaration, the WHO issued temporary recommendations to guide the response of countries around the world that might be affected by the virus, Ms. Vergeire said.

For countries like the Philippines with no history of monkeypox in humans, the guidelines include the activation of multisectoral response mechanisms “to stop human to human transmission.”

Stigmatization and discrimination against any person or group that may be affected should also be avoided “to help prevent further undetected transmission.”

WHO also recommends intensified disease surveillance and detection as well as raising awareness and training of health workers about virus transmission, it added.

The body also wants the government to work with key community-based groups and civil society networks to increase the information campaign about the virus.

Ms. Vergeire said the government’s public campaign against monkeypox is “consistent with the evidence that anyone can get it.” It is also based on the need to “work together to prevent not just the disease but also stigma that may cause undetected transmission.”

“Consistent with WHO recommendations, the DoH has been carefully communicating the risk of monkeypox transmission along with other pertinent facts about its causative agent and clinical presentation.”

DoH said it convened an inter-agency zoonosis body on May 27. Its members include officials from the Agriculture and Environment departments. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza