Tayag debunks monkeypox misconceptions


Dr. Enrique Tayag, director of the Department of Health’s Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service, clarified the common misconceptions on monkeypox, a re-emerging viral disease during the Stop COVID Deaths’ 102nd webinar held on June 3.

Monkeypox, as the infectious disease expert explained, is a condition transmitted from animals to humans. The public thinks that it is acquired from monkeys, but there is no tangible evidence to prove such claim. He presented data on the 2003 outbreak in the US which showed that the virus was contracted from rodents and not from monkeys. He also debunked the idea that the disease is closely related to smallpox, explaining that the two have distinct causative agents – monkeypox virus and variola virus, respectively.

On its sexual transmission, Tayag reiterated that this is not yet proven; although there is data in 2022 showing that more than half of infected males in the US had sex with fellow males.

There is no prodrome (or early sign) — symptoms or signs that will make you suspect that something is going on in your body. Unless you report and notify health authorities and consequent epidemiologic investigation is done, then you will never know for sure”, he added.

Monkeypox is not yet considered by the World Health Organization as a pandemic; since at present, cases of the disease were only reported in two continents. However, Tayag stated that in the case of monkeypox, even the presence of a single case connotes already an outbreak in a certain area in accordance with the WHO protocol.

Other misconceptions that were addressed by Director Tayag were sure immunity against monkeypox due to the acquisition of smallpox vaccine and the COVID-like pattern of quarantine which lasts until 21 days from exposure. Both do not relay certainty as smallpox vaccine effectivity wanes over time and the incubation and transmission period of monkeypox is different from to COVID-19.

Other speakers in the webinar were Dr. Joseph Adrian Buensalido, infectious disease specialist and Dr. Merrill Van Yu, adult infectious disease fellow from UP-PGH. Buensalido presented the technical aspects of the disease while Yu shared preventive measures against monkeypox.

Answering the question, “Dapat bang matakot sa monkeypox?”, Tayag said, “Sa ngayon, zero pa at sana panatilihin pa nating zero ang monkeypox sa ating bansa”; reiterating that the right amount of fear should lead Filipinos to be more responsible and cooperative with government health agencies in order to prevent its entry and spread in the country.

Francis Nicole G. Maga Published in UP Manila Healthscape Issue No. 40 (June 2022)

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