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WHO issues temporary guide to aid response vs monkeypox

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared on July 23 that monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

The WHO also issued Temporary Recommendations (TRs) to guide the response.

For countries like the Philippines with no history of monkeypox in humans, these include the following:

1. Activate multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms for readiness and response to stop human to human transmission;

2. Avoid stigmatization and discrimination against any individual or population group that may be affected to help prevent further undetected transmission;

3.  Intensify epidemiology and disease surveillance;

4. Intensify detection capacity by raising awareness and training health workers;

5. Raise awareness about virus transmission, related prevention and protective measures, and symptoms and signs among communities that are affected as well as among other population groups that may be at risk;

6.  Engage key community-based groups and civil society networks to increase provision of reliable and factual information;

7. Focus risk communication and community support efforts on settings and venues where close contact takes place;

8. Immediately report to WHO probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox; and

9. Implement all actions necessary to be ready to apply or continue applying further

“Up to now, there has been no finding in the Philippines that fits the definition of a suspected monkeypox case. The clinical presentation is often explained by other diseases that look like monkeypox, but is not the same,” said Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Health.

“The DOH will keep the Filipino public updated with factual information,” Vergeire added.

Monkeypox virus

The DOH said that monkeypox is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus, which is related to other viruses like smallpox.

It is called such because it was first detected in monkeys in the 1950s, even though it has always been detected in other animals like rats and primates. The first human case was documented in the 1970s.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact with an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus can enter the skin, respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (e.g. eyes, nose, or mouth). Human-to-human transmission through droplets is also believed to occur, hence the possibility of transmission through prolonged face-to-face contact.

Symptoms

Symptoms of monkeypox are generally mild and include fever, headache, back pain, cough, and sore throat; it can also include the presence of swollen lymph nodes.

Like chickenpox, the typical feature is a blister-like rash that appears around one to three days after the appearance of other symptoms. The rash usually starts in the face and goes down to the rest of the body, and can be characterized under the following stages:

  • Macules
  • Papules
  • Vesicles
  • Pustules
  • Scabs

Overall, the duration monkeypox can last from two to four weeks and is typically self-limiting, although it can also cause death. It is important to note that symptoms of monkeypox can look like those of other diseases.

Right now, the DOH said, there is no readily available way to diagnose monkeypox, other than using laboratory tests that detect genetic material.

“There is no definitive treatment, only supportive care while the usually-self-limiting disease runs its course. If you need clinical attention for monkeypox, consult your doctor for other possible treatments like immunoglobulins,” the DOH said.

Prevention

  • Avoid contact with animals including monkeys who could harbor the virus;
  • Practice good hygiene including hand washing; and
  • Isolate yourself if experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

The DOH also appealed to the public to visit its web site https://doh.gov.ph/ for advisories, and the websites of public health agencies in the countries you are traveling to.

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