A health expert expressed the need to create a “separate task force” against monkeypox a day after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the detection of the viral disease in the Philippines.
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis with “similar symptoms” to those seen in previous smallpox patients, but is clinically less severe. Unlike Covid-19, monkeypox is not airborne but experts warned that it may be transmitted through physical, skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, contaminated materials, as well as “intimate sexual contact” with individuals who have rashes or open wounds.
The country’s first confirmed case of monkeypox was a 31-year old Filipino national who arrived from abroad last July 19. The case, according to DOH, had 10 close contacts, three of which were from the same household.
The detection of this viral disease has led to a rise in fear and anxiety among Filipinos. In order to strengthen the country’s defense and help alleviate the stress that this has brought to many, a health expert pushed for the creation of a national task force against monkeypox.
“Ang suggestion dyan ay magkaroon ng separate national taskforce dahil di na kaya ng DOH yan eh so we can [enhance] our preparation. Ang isa pang [natutunan natin] dyan [sa Covid-19] ay partnership with medical community. Naghihintay lang ang mga experts na tumulong. Sana maging part din ng decision making para hindi tayo nahuhuli (The suggestion is to have a separate national task force so we can enhance our preparation because the DOH will no longer be able to handle that. Another thing that we have learned from Covid-19 is the partnership with the medical community. Experts are just waiting to help. We hope to be a part of the decision making process so our action will not be delayed),” said health reform advocate Dr. Anthony “Tony” Leachon in an interview over DZRH on Saturday, July 30.
While the public was advised to “minimize close sexual contact” with suspected cases, Leachon reiterated that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease.
“Dapat natin i-clear na hindi ito sexually transmitted disease. Ngunit, kung may infection ka at merong hugging, kissing, cuddling, ay [maaari kang makahawa] (We must clarify that this is not a sexually transmitted disease. But, if you have an infection and there is hugging, kissing, or cuddling, you may infect other people),” he added.
The health expert then urged the national government to strengthen its education campaign and focus on “strategic” communication.
“Dapat ay meron tayong sense of urgency, education campaign, at dapat decisive tayo sa pag aksyon dito. Huwag tayong mag panic. Ang reason for strategic communication is not to make the people panic. Once the public is armed with knowledge, ay makakaiwas tayo (We must have a sense of urgency, education campaign and we must also be decisive in taking action. Let us not panic, the reason for strategic communication is not to make the people panic. Once the public is armed with knowledge we will be able to avoid it),” Leachon furthered.