monkeypox

Why the Philippines is not closing borders vs monkeypox for now

Bonz Magsambol
Why the Philippines is not closing borders vs monkeypox for now

Department of Health OIC Ma. Rosario Vergeire holds face-to-face press briefing at the DOH headquarters in Manila on July 20, 2022. Rappler

'Let me emphasize that COVID-19 is different from monkeypox virus. Closing our borders is somehow irrational at this point,' says DOH OIC Maria Rosario Vergeire
Why the Philippines is not closing borders vs monkeypox for now

MANILA, Philippines – It would be “irrational” for the Philippines to close its borders following the detection of the country’s first case of the monkeypox virus, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday, August 2.

“Let me emphasize that COVID-19 is different from monkeypox virus…. Closing our borders, when in fact we can only confirm this virus ‘pag nakita mo na ang lesion (if you see lesions), is somehow irrational at this point,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.

Vergeire said that unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is not airborne and cannot easily be spread if there’s no direct contact.

Why the Philippines is not closing borders vs monkeypox for now

The DOH on Friday, July 29, reported its first case of monkeypox from a 31-year-old Filipino who arrived from abroad. The case has already been discharged and recovered.

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No advise from WHO, experts

Vergeire also said that there was no recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) to shut borders, although it already declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

“Hindi po natin papalitan ang restrictions sa ngayon sa ating borders. Unang-una, even the WHO has declared that the threat of this virus is low to moderate risk at sinabi nila hindi kailangan itigil ang trade. Hindi natin kailangan magrestrict ng borders,” she said.

(We’re not changing our border restrictions for now. First, even the WHO has declared that the threat of this virus is low to moderate risk, and they said that we don’t need to stop the trade.)

 “No recommendation from our experts regarding this matter,” Vergeire added.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said that the monkeypox outbreak now represents a public health emergency of international concern – the highest alert level declared by WHO.

This is a signal to the world of a health emergency that requires an international coordinated response. It motivates countries to devote resources, activate public health responses, and work across borders on vaccines or other medical treatments.

Vergeire assured the public that the DOH is ready to manage monkeypox cases in the country, as well as to do surveillance for its transmission.

“We have now established and made our laboratories capable to detect the monkeypox virus. We have given out instructions and mobilizer hospitals if and when magkakaroon tayo ng mas marami sa isa na kaso ng monkeypox (we would gave more cases of monkeypox),” she said, adding that the Philippines can test 1,000 samples in one run.

Asked for their criteria in testing suspected monkeypox cases, Vergeire said that priority is given to those who have lesions. The WHO said that monkeypox symptoms include rashes with blisters on face, hands, feet, body, eyes, mouth or genitals; fever; swollen lymph nodes; headaches; muscles and back aches; and low energy.

Why the Philippines is not closing borders vs monkeypox for now

The DOH urged the public to continue observing minimum health standards, noting that the  viral disease can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, animal, or contaminated materials. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.