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First case of monkeypox confirmed in South Africa

The first case of monkeypox has been identified in South Africa. There is currently a large outbreak of the disease, globally. (Photo: aljazeera.com / Wikipedia)

The first case of the rare disease has been identified in SA. There is currently a large outbreak of the disease, globally that has been flagged by the World Health Organization. Monkeypox is, however, very different from Covid-19 and not highly transmissible.

The Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla confirmed on Thursday that the first case of monkeypox has been found in South Africa. 

Phaahla said the infected person is a 30-year-old man from Gauteng with no travel history, which indicates that the disease is being transmitted in the community.

Phaahla said they were busy tracing those who were in contact with the man who tested positive for the disease on 22 June.

Monkeypox is a dissimilar disease to Covid-19 for several reasons:

  • It is not transmitted through respiratory droplets;
  • It needs close contact with an infected person for transmission, like kissing or sex or close contact with a contaminated item like bed linen;
  • It is not particularly contagious;
  • It might be sexually transmitted though, in theory, but this hasn’t been proven. Most of the newly diagnosed cases however involve men having sex with men with additional risk factors being men who have multiple male sex partners; and
  • It has a low fatality rate.

The symptoms are the following: 

  • Lesions on or around the genitalia.
  • A rash.
  • A fever.
  • Painful lymph nodes.
  • Oral ulcers.
  • Flu-like symptoms
An image showing monkeypox lesions on a patient
In this 1971 Center For Disease Control handout photo, monkeypox-like lesions are shown on the arm and leg of a female child in Bondua, Liberia.  (Photo: Courtesy of the CDC / Getty Images)

The global outbreak of the disease, normally not found outside of Africa, has been flagged by the World Health Organization and localised outbreaks have been reported in 3,000 people living in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The reason why global health experts are watching it closely is that this is the first global outbreak of the disease and the largest on record. 

“This is the first time that many monkeypox cases and clusters have been reported concurrently in non-endemic and endemic countries in widely disparate geographical areas. Most reported cases so far have been identified through sexual health or other health services in primary or secondary health-care facilities and have involved mainly, but not exclusively, men who have sex with men,” a statement by the WHO reads.

“WHO is collaborating with health authorities to prevent further spread of the disease. We are issuing guidance to help countries on surveillance, laboratory work, clinical care, infection prevention and control, as well as risk communication and community engagement to inform communities at risk and the broader general public about monkeypox and how to keep safe. We are also working closely with countries in Africa, regional institutions, and technical and financial partners, to support efforts to bolster laboratory diagnosis, disease surveillance, readiness and response actions to prevent further infections,” the organisation continued.

A medical laboratory technician inactivates suspected monkeypox samples to be tested at the microbiology laboratory of La Paz Hospital on June 06, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. Europe is at the centre of the monkeypox virus outbreak, the World Health Organisation reported 780 confirmed cases with Britain, Spain and Portugal reporting the largest numbers of patients. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images)

What you need to know

Here is what you need to know about monkeypox as explained by Dr Jacqueline Weyer from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. 

Prof Adrian Puren from the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) said they can confirm that the case was confirmed in their laboratories on Wednesday 22 June. 

“The case is a 30-year-old male who is resident in the Gauteng province and reports no recent travel history. He is presently recovering at home,” Puren said. “The virus is not highly transmissible and close physical contact is required for transmission,” he said. 

“The risk to the general population is considered low,” Puren added. DM/MC

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  • ‘There is currently a large outbreak of the disease…’
    If only 3000 people out of a world population of 7.95 billion are infected with Monkeypox, which I think amounts to less than 4 millionths of a percent, how can this be truthfully described as ‘large’? If DM wants to hold onto its claim as a defender of truth, it should use less propagandistic and more accurate language.
    That the outbreak is the largest on record shouldn’t be emotionally conflated with its actual proportion

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