Dept of Health on alert following first Monkeypox case

  • The Department of Health is urging Gauteng residents to be vigilant following a confirmed case of Monkeypox in the province.
  • The rare disease was discovered in a 35-year old man earlier this month following testing by Lancet Laboratory.
  • Of particular concern is that the man was not found to have done any notable travelling, with the disease common in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Following the pandemic, every case or a rare or uncommon disease being reported in South Africa often results in mild panic among South African citizens. Unfortunately, the same frenzy has occurred following the confirmation of a case of Monkeypox in Gauteng this week.

The discovery was made by Lancet Laboratory, which tested the results of a 35-year old man residing in Gauteng on 9th May, with the confirmation of Monkeypox (mpox) supported by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) per SA News.

While the disease itself is not highly transmittable, the National Department of Health (NDoH) is urging Gauteng residents in particular to remain vigilant.

“Although, the virus is not highly transmissible from person-to-person, but it has increased in global public health significance and can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick,” government noted in a statement.

What is notable regarding this case of Monkeypox, however, is that the man in question did not have a recent travel history to any countries where the disease is present. Such countries on the African continent would include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where there has been an ongoing mpox outbreak since last year.

“A new variant of the MPXV, named ‘clade 1b,’ emerged during epidemiological week 16 of 2024 (14 – 20 April 2024) in Kamituga, a mining enclave within the DRC. This variant exhibit heightened transmissibility, mainly through sexual contact, raising concerns about its potential to cause a pandemic,” the NDoH shared.

“Both the national and Gauteng Departments of Health have been actively involved and are managing the situation as per protocol and national guidelines. Contact tracing is continuing, identifying any additional linked cases of mpox in South Africa,” explained Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.

While the perceived risk of mpox in SA is low, with the national elections scheduled for later this month, as well as flu season now in full swing, a little more caution than normal might prove best moving forward.

“Mpox presents with an acute illness characterised by fever and general flu-like symptoms, followed by the eruption of a blister-like rash on the skin. The disease is rarely fatal and cases typically resolve within two to four weeks. Most cases do not require hospital treatment. Prevention of infection hinges on the isolation of cases until fully recovered,” the department continued.

“The risk to the general population is considered low, given the low transmissibility of the virus. The last reported cases of mpox in South Africa were in August 2022,” the NDoH pointed out.

[Image – World Health Organization]


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