The World Health Organization was concerned that at least 100 cases of monkeypox were confirmed or suspected globally in recent days, but experts wanted to allay the public’s fear.
Scientists do not expect the re-emergence of monkeypox to evolve into a pandemic like Covid-19, noting that the virus does not spread as easily as Sars-Cov-2.
Dr. Ted Herbosa, an adviser to the national pandemic task force, said monkeypox is “not a mystery illness” unlike the Sars-Cov-2 when it was first detected.
“Unlike Covid-19, it’s not as contagious and it’s not a novel disease,” he said in a televised briefing on Saturday.
“We know how to treat it and how it spreads. It’s not a mystery illness,” Herbosa said, adding that the vaccine for chickenpox may help a person become immune to monkeypox.
Monkeypox, a viral disease that looks like smallpox, was recently detected in European countries like Germany, as well as the United States (US), Canada and the United Kingdom.
It was first documented in animals in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research.
Symptoms include smallpox-like skin lesions, fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes, which may lead to a range of medical complications.
After the virus enters the body, it starts to replicate and spread through the body via the bloodstream. Symptoms usually don’t appear until one to two weeks after infection.
The monkeypox virus is transmitted to humans through close contact like wounds, body fluids, respiratory droplets with an infected person or animal, or with contaminated materials, although experts say it is less transmissible than smallpox.
Most people recover from the illness within several weeks and have only killed several individuals in some cases.
A variant of the disease kills around 10 percent of infected people, while the form of the virus currently circulating is thought to be milder, with a fatality rate of less than one percent.
Cases of monkeypox are largely confined to central and western Africa, Herbosa said.
How can it be treated
Treatment for monkeypox is primarily focused on relieving symptoms. No treatments are available to cure monkeypox infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suspected virus carriers may be isolated in a negative pressure room and monitored by medical professionals using personal protective equipment.
Evidence suggests that smallpox vaccines such as Imvamune or Imvanex, which are licensed in the US, may prevent monkeypox.
Vaccination after exposure to the virus may also help decrease the chances of severe illness.
Should Phl close borders?
While authorities were concerned about the possible spread of monkeypox in the Philippines amid the persisting Covid-19 threat, Herbosa said he does not see the need yet to close the country’s borders or impose large-scale lockdowns.
“As an adviser, I will not recommend closing our borders just because there were some 85 reported cases of monkeypox,” he said, noting the negative impact of a lockdown on the Philippine economy.
The government’s Covid-19 task force approved in late January the entry of fully-vaccinated tourists coming from 157 countries that have visa-free arrangements with the country to help boost economic recovery.
Catching monkeypox could be prevented by wearing masks, ensuring good airflow, frequent handwashing and observing physical distancing, according to the health department.
The agency assured the public that it has been “intensifying screening at our borders and ensuring that surveillance systems are actively monitoring the situation.”
With a report from MJ BLANCAFLOR