Monkeypox ‘unlikely’ to become pandemic but experts advise caution


By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter 

BECAUSE monkeypox is not airborne and isn’t infectious before symptoms appear, it’s unlikely that it will become a global pandemic like coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Still, everyone must remain cautious and observe minimum public health standards, according to infectious disease specialists.  

“Patients with skin lesions can be isolated more effectively,” said Dr. Franco A. Felizarta, a US-based infectious disease expert, at a virtual talk organized by the University of the Philippines (UP) on Aug. 5. “Monkeypox’s infectious nature is from the time of symptoms until the scabs fall off.”  

Transmission occurs via close or direct skin contact, respiratory droplets from prolonged face-to-face interactions, and contaminated fomites. These are all avoidable with hand washing, mask wearing, distancing, and regular sanitization of surfaces, he added.  

Meanwhile, the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Disease released a monkeypox screening and detection briefer for healthcare providers.  

“It’s very important for our responses to be on an institutional, individual, and collective level because we don’t want to lose our patients. We want them to come to us and be diagnosed as efficiently as possible,” said Dr. Regina P. Berba, chair of the infection control unit at UP-Philippine General Hospital. 

The briefer details that a monkeypox isolation area has to be its own isolation space with health workers wearing personal protective equipment when handling suspected cases, similar to COVID-19.  

Suspected cases typically present with fever or headaches along with the characteristic rashes and lesions.  

While the Philippine Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved treatments specifically for monkeypox, Dr. Felizarta said that there are available options, including the drug tecovirimat, which is traditionally used for smallpox.  

On Aug. 5, the Philippines’ first monkeypox case was deemed officially recovered after spending 21 days in isolation, according to a report by the Department of Health on Monday. However, the patient’s 10 close contacts are still in quarantine.  

Dr. Berba shared basic tips to take care of oneself in case of a monkeypox infection, which is usually mild: take care of the rashes, take care of your mental health, and avoid being in the same room as someone else.  

The specialists also warned the public not to attach any social stigma to the disease. “Infectious pathogens don’t care about race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Dr. Felizarta said. “Don’t underestimate monkeypox. Everybody can be infected with this virus.”