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What is Monkey Pox?

What is Monkey Pox
Photo courtesy of World Health Organization

What is Monkey Pox? The World Health Organization declares ‘monkey pox’ as a global health emergency following an upsurge in cases worldwide. As of date, more than 16,000 cases have been reported from 75 countries according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General.

“Under the International Health Regulations, I am required to consider five elements in deciding whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. First, the information provided by countries – which in this case shows that this virus has spread rapidly to many countries that have not seen it before; Second, the three criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern, which have been met; Third, the advice of the Emergency Committee, which has not reached consensus; Fourth, scientific principles, evidence and other relevant information – which are currently insufficient and leave us with many unknowns; And fifth, the risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic. WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high.” Statement of WHO Director-General’s (July 23, 2022)

What is Monkey Pox?

Monkey Pox, first discovered in Central Africa in the 1950s, is an illness caused by a virus. It is a viral zoonotic infection and can spread from animals to humans, and human to human. The disease can cause a range of signs and symptoms: fever, headache, muscle ache, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. It is followed or accompanied by a rash that can last for two to three weeks. The rash can often be found on the face, palm of hands, soles of feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal region. The lesion is described as flat then progressing to fill with liquid and then crust, dry up and fall off, and with a fresh layer of skin underneath. Complications of the said disease include secondary skin infections, pneumonia, and eye problems.

Transfer of disease is also said to include face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth, or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. Items can also become contaminated, such as clothing, bedding, electronics, and surfaces, and may transfer the disease (also known as fomite transmission). Ulcers, lesions, or sores in the mouth can also be infectious – this means respiratory droplets and short-range aerosols can transmit the disease. (Source: World Health Organization)

Prevention and Treatment

Reduce risk by limiting close contact with persons who have or are suspected to have monkey pox. Constant disinfection of personal items, including household, is essential. It is also important to be updated about the disease in the locality. In terms of treatment, symptoms usually resolve on their own without the need for treatment. If needed, medication such as analgesics (for pain) and antipyretics (for fever) may be used. Persons who have the disease are advised to stay hydrated, sleep well, and eat well.

WHO Response

WHO Director-General, in a press conference following IHR Emergency Committee last July 23, made the following recommendations: “Accordingly, I have made a set of recommendations for four groups of countries: First, those that have not yet reported a case of monkeypox, or have not reported a case for more than 21 days; Second, those with recently imported cases of monkeypox and that are experiencing human-to-human transmission. This includes recommendations to implement a coordinated response to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups; To engage and protect affected communities; To intensify surveillance and public health measures; To strengthen clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics; To accelerate research into the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools; And recommendations on international travel. The third group of countries is those with transmission of monkeypox between animals and humans; And the fourth is countries with manufacturing capacity for diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics. My full recommendations are laid out in my statement.”

Monkey Pox in the Philippines

In an article published by the Philippine News Agency dated June 25, the Department of Health stated that are no confirmed cases of monkey pox in the country so far. In a Laging Handa briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire revealed that local government units continue to submit samples from ‘suspect cases’ to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for verification.

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