The government has not yet established the local transmission of monkeypox in the country, even as the Department of Health has traced 18 close contacts of the second monkeypox case – all but one of them health workers.
DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire also said it asked a regional office to investigate pictures of a monkeypox patient circulating on social media.
Vergeire said the unauthorized disclosure of private and confidential information about a patient’s medical condition violates the country’s existing laws.
The DOH is also talking to two monkeypox vaccine manufacturers for the country to receive its first doses.
Vergeire said the government is working to get some monkeypox shots before yearend. One manufacturer committed to providing the Philippines with vaccines by early next year, she added.
“Please remember that we do not do mass vaccination for monkeypox. We’re just going to vulnerable sectors, and we are prioritizing those who have been exposed and also our health care workers,” she said.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Vergeire said the country’s fourth monkeypox case has no history of travel to other countries with confirmed cases or contact with any patient.
“We cannot say for now that this is already a local transmission because we are still establishing the source of the infection,” she told CNN’s ‘New Day’ program. “We are still trying to establish and back-trace as to where he got the infection.”
The country’s first three monkeypox cases were all linked to travelers.
The DOH on Monday said the 25-year-old fourth patient was in an isolation facility. For this patient, the department identified 14 close contacts, including six in isolation, one taking care of the patient, and a health care worker on self-monitoring.
As for the country’s second monkeypox case, the 17 health workers identified as close contacts are considered by physicians and the agency’s epidemiology and surveillance team as “low risk”.
“They had no direct physical contact. And they were wearing complete PPEs (personal protective equipment) during the time they checked the patient,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.
One is tagged as “medium risk” as the health worker is looking after the patient, she added. They all underwent self-monitoring, were quarantined in their homes, and nobody exhibited any symptoms, the DOH OIC added.
The country’s second monkeypox case is a 34-year-old Filipino who was confirmed positive on Aug. 18. The patient was ready to be discharged and is finishing the 21-day isolation at home, Vergeire said last week.
For the third monkeypox case involving a 29-year-old Filipino, 17 close contacts were earlier identified by health authorities. Of the number, 13 are considered medium risk, but the DOH did not provide other details. All of them have not exhibited symptoms of the disease and are quarantined.
The World Health Organization earlier this year declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern. But the DOH believes there is no need to tighten border controls, saying surveillance and heightened awareness of the viral disease are considered more effective in controlling its spread.
“It is not really a matter of if but it’s a matter of when if these cases come to the country. We just need to be vigilant, especially in our communities, do our surveillance and immediately isolate people who have these symptoms,” Vergeire said.
Monkeypox is a less severe cousin of smallpox that can be transmitted between humans through close contact with an infected individual’s body fluids, sores, or contaminated items.
Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and rashes that can turn into lesions. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said lesions could resolve over a period of two to three weeks.