The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said it would not recommend a “lockdown” despite the detection of monkeypox cases in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the DOH said a fourth case of monkeypox in the country was still in isolation and continuously healing.
“The DOH does not recommend lockdown due to the confirmation of a fourth case of monkeypox in Iloilo. The confirmed case and the identified close contacts are under monitoring and strict quarantine. These measures are being done to help prevent further transmission,” the DOH said in a statement.
“For now, we cannot still confirm that local transmission is present. The Department is still conducting and confirming contact tracing of the 4th case,” the DOH added.
“The Department would also like to reiterate that the verification of their information is crucial as through this, we can clarify and confirm the source of infection,” it said.
“Rest assured that we will be updating once we have all the factual information about the case. Regardless if local transmission is or is not present, the country’s preventive measures for Monkeypox will act as if such is happening,” the DOH said.
The DOH issued the statements in response to the Negros Occidental local government’s plan to tighten regulations in seaports to ensure strict health screening of passengers coming from Iloilo.
The DOH in Western Visayas has confirmed that the country’s fourth monkeypox case is a 25-year-old resident of Iloilo.
The patient has no documented travel history to or from any country with confirmed monkeypox cases.
A total of 14 close contacts were earlier identified by DOH, but reportedly did not have any symptoms of the disease.
The country’s first three monkeypox cases were all travel-related.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the outbreak of the virus an emergency last month, normally done for diseases of highest concern.
The symptoms of monkeypox, which is endemic in parts of Central and Western Africa, include lesions, fever, muscle ache, and chills. It has only been fatal in rare cases.
In contrast to previous outbreaks in Africa, the virus is predominantly spread from intimate contact, though it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Other routes were also possible, including sharing bedding, clothing, and prolonged face-to-face contact.
At a press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the 25-year-old Filipino national with no travel history to any country with confirmed monkeypox cases, was currently in isolation, while the patient’s lesions were continuously healing.
Vergeire also said there is no additional case of monkeypox reported in the country.
Vergeire also said it was challenging for them to establish the accurate history of the infection as the patient was hesitant to give information due to the media reports in the past days.
“The challenge now is for us to establish the accurate history from the patient. The patient is now quite hesitant to give us information because of all the media reports that has happened in the past days,” Vergeire said.
“The patient’s photo was posted on social media so the patient was hesitant to talk to us. But we are still coordinating with the patient’s family to be able to establish the source of infection,” she said.
The DOH said all 14 close contacts of the patient were identified as asymptomatic.
Of the 14, six are undergoing quarantine, one is self-monitoring, one is assisting in the case while at an isolation facility whose quarantine will only start when the case is discharged from the isolation.
The DOH said the remaining six have finished quarantine.
Vergeire likewise reiterated they cannot rule out that this is a local transmission, saying the information from the patient has not yet been established.
“So for now, we cannot say 100 percent and with certainty that this is a local transmission because we have not established the facts yet,” she said.
“We appeal to the media outlets and the public to preserve and respect the identity and privacy of specific individuals afflicted by specific illnesses in order to lessen their worry. They lose their trust in the government and the people because of these incidents,” she said.
The second and third cases of monkeypox in the country are asymptomatic and still in isolation, Vergeire said.
Vergeire earlier said the second and third monkeypox cases are aged 34 and 29 and both had recently traveled to countries with confirmed monkeypox cases.
Vergeire declined to give details about the patients.
The DOH earlier said monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal or contaminated materials.
A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
The first symptoms can include a fever, headaches, sharp muscle pains, fatigue, a rash, as well as swollen and painful lymph nodes, according to the Agence France-Presse.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on July 23 declared the monkeypox outbreak—which has affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—to be a global health emergency, the highest alarm it can sound.