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Learn more about monkeypox as we record first confirmed case in SA

15 August 2022

Pretoria: Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla has announced that a fourth case of monkeypox has been identified through laboratory testing in a 28-year old male from the Western Cape Province. The patient has a travel history to Spain and returned to South Africa on the second week of August 2022.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was performed in a private pathology laboratory and the samples were submitted to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for sequencing analysis. Public health response measures to prevent the spread of the infection, including contact tracing have been instituted. Read here for the entire media statement.

23 June 2022

South Africa has recorded its first case of monkeypox today, 23 June 2022. The Minister of Health Dr. Joe Phaahla explained that he received a report from the National Health Laboratory Services’ CEO that they have confirmed through laboratory tests the first case of monkeypox in South Africa. South Africa’s monkeypox patient zero is a 30-year-old man from Johannesburg.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has prepared an information sheet to better understand monkeypox, the symptoms to treatment.

What you need to know

The monkeypox virus causes symptoms similar to smallpox, but less severe. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 through the administration of a vaccine. The smallpox vaccine has proved to be effective in combatting monkeypox as well.

The monkeypox virus is endemic to Central and West Africa in two distinct clades: The West Africa and the Congo Basin clades. Like the coronavirus, the monkeypox virus is transmitted from animals to humans. Human-to-human transmission is limited though. It can be transmitted via contact with bodily fluids, skin lesions or internal mucosal surfaces such as the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets, and contaminated objects.

The best and most reliable method of detection is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and the best specimens are sourced from rash, fluids or crusts. Antigen and antibody detection are not accurate.

Since 15 June 2022, 2 103 laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox, one probable case, and one death have been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from 42 countries.  Endemic countries include Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. To date all cases have been identified as being infected by the West African Clade.

Cases have been identified in South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the USA.

Information suggests that this is common among homosexual men and who seek treatment and care at healthcare institutions. Furthermore, those at risk are individuals who have had physical contact with someone with monkeypox.

Update as @ 25 July 2022

The WHO Secretariat presented the global epidemiological situation, highlighting that between 1 January 2022 and 20 July 2022, 14,533 probable and laboratory-confirmed cases (including 3 deaths in Nigeria and 2 in the Central African Republic) were reported to WHO from 72 countries across all six WHO Regions; up from 3,040 cases in 47 countries at the beginning of May 2022.

Transmission is occurring in many countries that had not previously reported cases of monkeypox, and the highest numbers of cases are currently reported from countries in the WHO European Region and the Region of the Americas.

The majority of reported cases of monkeypox currently are in males, and most of these cases occur among males who identified themselves as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), in urban areas, and are clustered in social and sexual networks. Early reports of children affected include a few with no known epidemiological link to other cases.

Symptoms include:

  • Skin rash
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle and body pains
  • Back pain
  • Weakness

Any patient with suspected symptoms should be investigated, and if confirmed, isolated until such time that their lesions have crusted, scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

Treatment for Monkeypox

According to the National Institute Communicable Diseases (NICD), this type of infection does not require specific treatment as the disease does resolve on its own. Currently in South Africa, there is no specific vaccine registered for monkeypox.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further explain that there are no specific treatments for the Monkeypox infection, but outbreaks can be controlled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved tecovirimat (TPOXX) and brincidofovir (TEMBEXA) for the treatment of smallpox; however, these have not been registered in South Africa.

Transmissible, but not deadly

It is important to note that most human cases of Monkeypox resolve within 2-3 weeks of being infected without side-effects. Also, an infected person is infectious at the start of the rash/lesions through the stage when scabs form. However, when these scabs fall off, the person is no longer contagious.

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