Home South African Health minister calls for vigilance after positive case of monkey pox

Health minister calls for vigilance after positive case of monkey pox

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The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has issued a call for public vigilance following the country’s first laboratory-confirmed case of monkeypox since August 2022.

File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

THE MINISTER of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has issued a call for public vigilance following the country’s first laboratory-confirmed case of monkeypox (Mpox) since August 2022.

The patient, a 35-year-old male from the Gauteng province, tested positive for the disease on May 9, 2024.

The initial testing was conducted by Lancet Laboratory and later confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which promptly notified the department.

Mpox is a rare viral infectious disease in humans caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV). Although not highly transmissible from person to person, the virus has gained global public health significance and it has the potential to cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. While most people fully recover, some can become very ill.

Preliminary investigations and case findings reveal that the Gauteng patient has no recent travel history to countries currently experiencing an outbreak of the disease.

Both the national and Gauteng departments of Health are actively managing the situation in accordance with protocol and national guidelines. Contact tracing is ongoing to identify any additional linked cases of Mpox in South Africa.

Since 2023, there has been an ongoing Mpox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), primarily due to a distinct MPXV clade I. This clade is characterised by its high virulence and has a higher fatality rate than the global outbreak-associated clade II.

Transmission of MPXV clade I is mostly observed among heterosexual individuals through sexual transmission, particularly among female sex workers.

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

Mpox presents as 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 the patient is fully recovered.

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 World Health Organization recommends increasing vigilance for cases with contact tracing and the monitoring of laboratory-confirmed cases. Isolation of confirmed cases allows for the prevention of transmission and interruption of the cycle of transmission.

Circulation of the MPXV in humans may be eliminated through this classic containment approach. Mass vaccination against the MPXV is not currently recommended.

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