Monkeypox cases transmitted through sexual contact

The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday said nine of 10 monkeypox cases worldwide have been transmitted through sexual contact. DoH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, quickly clarified that the monkeypox virus cannot be considered as a sexually transmitted disease.

“Although the virus has now evolved, it can be acquired through sexual contact,” she said. “Actually, 95 percent cases right now globally are acquired through sexual contact.”

Meanwhile, Vergeire assured the public that hospitals in the country are capable of treating cases of monkeypox.

“We have infectious disease hospitals specialized for this, such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. We also have our San Lazaro Hospital, and other Level 3 hospitals all over the country that are all capable of doing and managing this kind of cases,” Vergeire said in a radio interview.

She added that the department does not see the need to put up referral hospitals for monkeypox, similar to Covid-19 referral centers.

“We do not need a special referral hospital for this,” she stressed.

Last week, the country reported its first case of monkeypox, more than a week after the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox virus as a “public health emergency of international concern.”

The country’s first case was a 31-year-old patient who arrived in the country on 19 July. He tested positive for the virus on Thursday, 28 July.

Beef up border control, contact tracing

In a related development, Sen. Nancy Binay urged concerned government agencies to prepare for the possibility of outbreaks of monkeypox cases.

“For the past years, we’ve seen the glaring gaps in our Covid pandemic response. This time, we hope the DoH and the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) are better prepared to handle monkeypox for us to contain future outbreak possibilities,” Binay said.

Likewise, the lady senator urged the DILG to reactivate emergency hotlines, and revisit local-level coordination with LGUs in terms of surveillance and border control to ensure that transmission of the virus can be immediately be contained.

“The framework we used during the height of the Covid pandemic is already there. We can fuse the 3T strategy (tracing, testing, treatment) on Covid with DoH’s current 4-door strategy (prevention, detection, isolation, treatment) versus monkeypox,” she added.

The DoH and the DILG conduct educational campaigns and impose surveillance and border control measures amid the back-to-back threat of Covid-19 and the monkeypox virus, according to Binay.

“Given our low Covid-19 vaccination rate in highly-vulnerable provinces, plus the slow uptake for booster shots, the monkeypox threat adds up to our Covid pandemic response,” she said.

“I just hope the DoH and DILG can kickstart or scale up contract tracing now that monkeypox and Covid are likely to put a strain on our already overstretched pandemic response program,” she added.

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