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Monkeypox in South Africa

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has confirmed that Monkeypox has been detected in South Africa during a recent media briefing in Pretoria, Gauteng.

He said he received a report from the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) that they have confirmed Monkeypox in South Africa through laboratory tests.

The virus has been detected in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Monkeypox is usually a mild disease manifesting as blisters or sores on the skin. It is usually mild and with a fatality rate of 1 percent.

The disease has previously been reported in African countries such as Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Ghana in the early 2000s. 

The current outbreak is dominated by high numbers in Europe with the UK leading with over 700 cases, Spain with just over 500, followed by Germany, Portugal and France.

The Minister said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is conducting online in-service training for health workers to be able to detect the disease so that necessary laboratory tests can be done.

“The disease only spreads through close contact, so you cannot get it by being in the same room with an infected person,” the Minister said.

Minister Phaahla assured South Africans that Monkeypox is not a virus which has never been seen before and scientists have information about it.

Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19 and Executive member of NHLS, Professor Koleka Mlisana, said Monkeypox is a disease that is endemic in Central and Northern Africa which has been known to be mild.

An endemic disease is a condition regularly found among particular people or in a certain area.

She said there are similarities between Monkeypox and Smallpox.

“There are vaccines and treatment available for Monkeypox. The disease presents itself with flu like symptoms and Legionnaires. The important thing is that somebody who comes up with a clinical picture is easy to diagnose and most importantly it is difficult to transmit, unlike a respiratory virus, because it is by contact. You would only get it when you have come in direct contact with somebody who is infected,” she said.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia.

Professor Mlisana said contact tracing is important in this case and the Health Department will continue to do that.

She assured South Africans that the Laboratory infrastructure has all the adequate resources to be able monitor any new infections that may arise. –SAnews.gov.za