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Need to know: Monkeypox causes, symptoms, and prevention

The Philippines recorded its first case of Monkeypox last July 2022.

The Department of Health (DOH) first detected the virus to a 31-year-old Filipino who arrived from abroad last July 19. The infected individual has a travel history to countries with documented monkeypox virus cases.

On a virtual presser with the Philippine Information Agency Ilocos Norte Information Center, Jaime Javillionar, development management Officer of the Provincial Department of Health Office, explained the frequently asked questions about the virus.


What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral disease that affects primates and rodents in the west and central Africa and is related to smallpox. It is transmitted to people from animals and has symptoms resembling those of smallpox in the past, although they are clinically less severe, and are comparable to those of smallpox.

The virus can cause a rash lasting up to two to four weeks.

The ongoing outbreak was confirmed in May 2022 where the initial cases were found in the United Kingdom. The first case was detected in an individual who has a travel history in Nigeria where the disease is endemic.

There are two types of monkeypox virus, the West African, which the current outbreak is from, and the Congo Basin type.


What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

The symptoms of the monkeypox virus can include fever, headache, muscle and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and some respiratory symptoms like sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough.

A rash that looks like pimples or blisters will develop on the face, inside the mouth, hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

Javillonar explained that the disease has four stages. The incubation period can take up to five to 21 days. A person infected will show no symptoms however, the virus is present in their bloodstream.

The Febrile stage which can take one to five days will show symptoms like fever, lymphadenopathy or swollen lymph nodes, chills, sore throat, malaise, and fatigue. Small lesions in the mouth can appear towards the end of this stage.

After that comes the Rash stage which can take up to two to four weeks. The rash will look like a pimple or blister but can be distinguished through a black dot in the center of the lesion. The rash will go through stages, including scabs before healing.

Finally, comes the recovery stage which can take days or weeks.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is the preferred test to indicate the presence of the virus in skin lesions.


How it is transmitted?

The Monkeypox virus is transmitted through skin to skin or direct contact. The virus is spread through unprotected contact with respiratory droplets, lesion material, body fluids, and contaminated body fluids.

The virus can then enter the body through the respiratory tract, eyes, mouth, and broken skin.

How can we prevent the spread of Monkeypox?

To avoid catching the virus, Javillonar advised avoiding skin-to-skin contact and contact with objects and materials that has been used by an infected person. He also advised washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using rubbing alcohol or sanitizer to ensure optimal disinfection.           

The country has adopted the four-door strategy to prevent the entry of the monkeypox virus, which was first used for the COVID-19 pandemic.

This approach is divided into four parts; the first one is the implementation of travel restrictions and bans as a level of defense to support the present health protocols implemented; the second part is maintaining screening, testing, and quarantine points to lessen the risk of transmission; third is the strengthening of prevent-detect-isolate-treat-reintegrate strategies; and fourth is capacity building against disease surges to ensure proper and timely disease management and the continuity of essential services.


Is there a cure or vaccine for Monkeypox?

At this moment, there is no known cure, or a developed vaccine to eradicate the virus.

Infected people can be treated with supportive care, like taking antipyretics drugs and hydration with losses; antibacterial treatment if an infected person has superimposed bacterial infection; keeping the skin clean and dry with lesions covered with sterile wound dressing; and regularly changing bed linens and other materials used by an infected person.


For the past two years living with the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions about health and safety has been a priority. Giiven the new health risk the nation is now facing, may we take the matter as seriously as possible.


Javillonar concludes by reminding the public to keep up with the health and safety precautions to prevent the virus from spreading further. (JCR/EJFG/DJSG, PIA Ilocos Norte)

PDOHO personnel, Jaime Javillonar (bottom left) with the PIA Ilocos Norte staff during the Virtual Presser on Monkeypox virus. (EJFG, PIA Ilocos Norte)
During the virtual presser, Jaime Javillonar, PDOHO Development Management Officer discussed the different stages of the Monkeypox virus once it infects an individual. (EJFG, PIA Ilocos Norte)
Provincial DOH personnel discussed the differences of Monkeypox, Chickenpox, and Measles during a virtual presser. (EJFG, PIA Ilocos Norte)

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