With vaccines continuing to be rolled out, people all over the world are rejoicing as every nation continues to rise again from the negative impacts of the pandemic. Daily living has changed a lot because of the protocols which serve as safety precautions to prevent the massive spread of the virus. Luckily, people and every country’s economy did not have to suffer for a long time thanks to the brilliant minds of pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. Despite the efforts of the best professionals in the medical science field, another virus is on the verge of wide community transmission. Last May 2022, a monkeypox outbreak was confirmed. The first case was detected in the United Kingdom by an individual who traveled from Nigeria. This July 2022, the Department of Health (DOH) detected the first local transmission of the monkeypox virus in the Philippines.
The pandemic is nowhere near over but here is another virus starting again. Surely, protocols would help, but it is better to be informed about monkeypox. A poxvirus is not new to everyone. It has different types such as chickenpox and smallpox. Nevertheless, it is better to be informed about this poxvirus to protect and decrease our chances from getting infected by the virus. With this, here are some of the basic facts about the new virus outbreak happening on different nations around the globe.
What is Monkeypox?
The World Health Organization identifies monkeypox as “an illness caused by monkeypox virus which is a viral zoonotic infection”. This means that the virus can spread from animals to humans or vice versa, or through human contact. As usual, newborn babies, children, and people with immunodeficiency are likely at risk of getting infected and experience more serious symptoms.
The first ever case of this poxvirus occurred in the year 1958 inside a laboratory where monkeys are kept for research. Even it is named monkeypox and detected in monkeys, the source of the virus was not from the animal it was named from. But one speculation from the experts is the virus spread through African rodents and non-human primates like monkeys. In the 1970s, the first human case of monkeypox was detected. Most of the human monkeypox cases happen in central and western African countries. Additionally, cases outside African countries are usually linked to travels in these nations.
How Does Monkeypox Spread?
This type of poxvirus is known to spread through humans and animals. However, since humans have more interaction with one another than animals, humans have higher chances of getting infected and spreading the virus. When a person is infected, he or she can pass on the virus through close, and direct or indirect skin-to-skin contact. Direct skin contact includes touching the rash, scabs, or the skin of a person infected with monkeypox. Being exposed to body fluids of the infected person is also a way for another person to be infected by this type of poxvirus. Additionally, any objects used by someone with the virus and the surfaces he or she used might have been contaminated hence it can be a way for the virus to infect others. However, spreading becomes more complicated if the person is on the early stages of infection. This means symptoms have not fully surfaces so the intimate contact between people might spread the virus as well. This includes having sex, hugging, or even the simple physical touches we do as we communicate with one another. Lastly, a pregnant woman who gets infected have higher chances of spreading the virus to more people. In fact, the virus can be passed on to her fetus through the placenta. With this, physical contact with the person infected or even their body fluids, objects or surfaces they use can be a host to spread the poxvirus. It must also be noted that even if the rash of the infected person is already healed, there is still a risk that the person is still a host of the virus. Thus, it is important the people infected to complete the required isolation period to ensure that the virus has completely disappeared.
Currently, scientists are investigating other possible ways of virus transmission. These professionals are studying if asymptomatic individuals can be a carrier of the virus and transmit it to others. Other body fluids and human waste are being examined if they can be a tool for viral transmission. It includes urine, feces, semen, and vaginal fluid.
Symptoms, Treatment, and Ways to Prevent Monkeypox
The symptoms of this poxvirus are similar to smallpox but less severe. Initially, a person infected may experience any or a combination of these symptoms which include fever, headache, sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin, back pain, muscle aches, and lack of energy. After experiencing the initial symptoms, lesions or rashes usually appears. It can grow anywhere which can be painful at times, but the pain should not last. It is expected that the lesions or rashes will heal within 2-3 weeks. The good news is when lesions have fully healed, it is an indication that the infected person is near to his or her full recovery.
During the infection stage, if the symptoms are not bearable anymore, there are ways to alleviate the pain and lessen its impacts. Medical professionals can use treatments done for smallpox patients like prescribing antiviral medications and other medicines which will manage the symptoms and complications of the virus. Since this is a virus, strengthening the immune system is the most important aspect of the treatment process for this illness.
Right now, the vaccine for this poxvirus is still in a short supply. Luckily, it was proven that smallpox vaccine is effective in producing antibodies against monkeypox. However, the short supply of Jynneos (monkeypox vaccine) and eligibility for the smallpox vaccine are problems for those who want to be extra protected against the poxvirus. For the smallpox vaccine, there are conditions to be considered to be qualified for taking this immunity shot. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, stated that the US has 100 million doses of smallpox vaccine, but he believes that its side effects are severe which makes it unworthy to be distributed to the general population. With this, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the general public to avoid physical contact and sharing objects with others. In effect, it is like social distancing. Frequent usage of alcohol and hand washing are also recommended as hands are one of the most common means to transmit a virus whether through objects, surfaces or physical touch to others.
Philippines’ First Case – Our Response
Last July 2022, the Philippines reported its first case of the virus. It was detected from a 31-year-old who traveled overseas. The country to which the person went to was not disclosed. Nevertheless, the Department of Health traced all the close contacts of the person and was instructed to isolate for 14 to 21 days. Despite the virus being known for its rapid transmission, the Philippines have not closed or tighten its protocols on its borders. This move was defended by the government as the virus is not generally fatal and only its rapid spread is the primary concern.
With this, Filipinos are advised to be vigilant and avoid physical contact to decrease the chances of getting infected by the poxvirus. Similar precautions are advised for the public to be done like frequent handwashing and usage of alcohol. Being hygienic and avoiding close contact are the best ways to decrease the chances of getting infected. The pandemic is not over so the protocols must still be followed despite the vaccines that have been rolled out. Following such would be helpful in preventing being infected. We must protect ourselves to continue our grind in life whether that is for purchasing a house and lot through Pag-IBIG or bank loan and any other endeavors. Staying healthy is the most important thing in our lives because if we are unhealthy, we cannot bring our dreams to reality.