A party-list lawmaker is calling for the urgent creation of a national task force to monitor the status and combat monkeypox to proactively prevent community transmission and infection.
In filing House Resolution No. 134 on Aug. 1, AGRI Rep. Wilbert Lee said a national task force, composed of relevant government agencies in partnership with the private sector, must be established to enhance preparation and develop strategies to proactively combat monkeypox.
A copy of the resolution was sent to the media on Tuesday.
“The said national task force against the monkeypox virus shall also update the public on the status of this disease, implement robust decisions to fight the continued threats of the monkeypox virus and develop education and strategic communication materials that will equip and prepare the general population to mitigate the risk of being infected by the virus and qualm the potential panic and misinformation that can affect the public,” Lee said.
On July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” after around 70 countries where the viral disease is not endemic have reported outbreaks.
On Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) announced that a 31-year-old Filipino who returned to the country from an overseas trip last July 19 tested positive for monkeypox.
The DOH said it has identified 10 close contacts of the patient, of which three were from the same household.
Lee said the government should apply the lessons learned from the “painful experience” of dealing with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in addressing monkeypox, stressing the need for a “whole-of-nation approach in this battle”.
“Kailangan natin ng mabilis at agrisibong aksyon lalo pa’t nasa pandemya pa rin tayo. Napakahalaga po ng edukasyon ukol dito para maimulat ang marami nating kababayan kung paano makakaiwas sa nakakahawang sakit (We need a fast and aggressive approach especially now that we are still in a pandemic. It is necessary to be educated regarding this matter so that Filipinos would be aware to prevent getting infected),” he said.
He said the country could not afford to suffer another economic standstill, especially for vulnerable sectors such as farmers and fisherfolk.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said monkeypox is not as alarming as Covid-19.
“I want to be very clear to everyone: This is not covid…Hindi nakakatakot kagaya ng (It is not alarming like) Covid. Yung monkeypox parang (Monkeypox is like) smallpox. Marami namang gamot (There are medicines to cure it),” Marcos said in an interview with reporters in a Pasig City event on Monday.
He said it is “unfortunate” that the monkeypox outbreak has reached the country, but noted that the 31-year-old patient has already recovered.
Marcos also reassured the public that the government is strictly monitoring the monkeypox outbreak even if the country’s first case has reportedly recovered from the viral disease.
The monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding, according to the WHO.
Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications.
Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also provided protection against monkeypox. (PNA)