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Philippines detects 2 more monkeypox cases; total now 3

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday confirmed two more cases of monkeypox in the Philippines, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.

At a press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the two new cases are aged 34 and 29 and both had recently traveled to countries with confirmed monkeypox cases.

Vergeire declined to give details about the patients, including their gender.

According to the DOH official, the 34-year-old patient’s positive PCR result was released on August 18, while the 29-year-old patient's result was released on August 19.

The 34-year-old patient is under home isolation while contact tracing is ongoing, according to Vergeire. The 29-year-old case is currently in a healthcare facility.

"To date, 17 close contacts of the third case have been identified. Their details are being verified," the DOH said in a separate statement. 

The first case of monkeypox in the country was a 31-year-old patient who had traveled to a country with a known monkeypox case.

Vergeire said the first patient was assessed as recovered by the physician and discharged from isolation on August 6.

She said all 10 contacts of the first case had completed quarantine. No laboratory for confirmatory testing had to be performed as they were all asymptomatic on final assessment, she added. 

"Note that the two new cases are not related to each other, or to the first case," the DOH said.  

No border closure

Vergeire also said there is no need to close the country’s borders despite the reported monkeypox cases.

“Hindi po natin kailangan gawin yon even the (World Health Organization) WHO in countries where there is mataas na kaso ng monkeypox does not recommend to close their borders,” Vergeire said.

(Even the WHO does not recommend countries with a high number of monkeypox cases to close their borders.)

“Hindi ho natin kailangan gawin ‘yan, ang kailangan ho natin gawin intensify further our surveillance system at kailangan din syempre impormasyon para sa ating mga kababayan para guided tayong lahat kung ano ang dapat nating gawin at ano ang dapat iwasan,” she said.

(We don't need to do that. What we need to do is to further intensify our surveillance system, and of course, we also need to inform our fellow Filipinos on what to do and what to avoid.)

She said that there was also a "possibility" that other cases were still not being detected.

Vergeire encouraged the public to immediately consult doctors and isolate themselves if they have symptoms in order to prevent the spread of monkeypox.

According to the DOH OIC, monkeypox and COVID-19 have different modes of transmission.

"Kung dati sa COVID-19 sumakay ka ng eroplano tapos may sakit ka, we need to inform the entire mga kasamahan mo sa eroplano dahil yung posibilidad maaring mahawa ka ay nandoon dahil nga maari siyang magtravel sa air compared to monkeypox na direct contact skin to skin o intimate contact,” she said.

(For COVID-19, when you ride on a plane and then you get sick, we need to inform your fellow passengers because the possibility that you may be infected is there because the virus may travel by air compared to monkeypox, which is through direct skin-to-skin or intimate contact.)

“So yun pong ating mga close contacts na kasakay niya sa eroplano, yung mga katabi po niya kasama niya po sa contact tracing efforts but the other members or passengers hindi po natin kailangan at hindi po natin kailangan magpanic dahil dyan,” she added.

(Close contacts who were on the plane, those next to the passenger, will be included in the contact tracing efforts, but the other members or passengers will not be included. We don't need to panic because of that.)

The DOH earlier said monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or contaminated materials.

A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.

The first symptoms can include a fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes, according to an Agence France-Presse explainer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on July 23 declared the monkeypox outbreak — which has affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — to be a global health emergency, the highest alarm it can sound.

Ninety-five percent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Everyone can help prevent the spread of monkeypox. Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with suspected cases, especially those with rashes or open wounds. Keep hands clean. Wear a face mask. Cover coughs using the elbow, and choose areas with good airflow," the DOH said. 

"The DOH wishes to emphasize that anyone may get monkeypox. If you have a travel history to countries with monkeypox, and then have symptoms like fever, lymphadenopathy or 'kulani,' and rashes, seek immediate medical attention. This will help hasten recovery."  —KBK/VBL, GMA News

Tags: DOH, monkeypox, news