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South Africa on high alert after five confirmed cases of monkeypox

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Johannesburg, June 12 (IANS) South Africa is on high alert following the outbreak of monkeypox in May, with five laboratory-confirmed cases including one death, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Wednesday.

Phaahla told the media that all five patients diagnosed with monkeypox, also known as Mpox, three from KwaZulu-Natal Province and two from Gauteng Province, were men between the ages of 30 and 39 with no history of travel. Two remain hospitalized, two have been discharged, and one died on Monday in a hospital in Johannesburg, reported Xinhua News Agency.

"All five cases were classified as severe cases as per the World Health Organization (WHO) definition requiring hospitalization. Since the beginning of 2024, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has received 12 Mpox test requests, with three testing positive. The other two cases were diagnosed by private laboratories," said the minister. "Guidelines have been updated and shared widely across networks of healthcare workers using various platforms."

According to him, the outbreak response team, consisting of experts from various government sectors, the WHO, and other stakeholders, has embarked on contact tracing and case finding in the affected provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

"We can disrupt the local transmission by supporting those diagnosed with this disease in taking their treatment to prevent infecting others. We can prevent avoidable deaths by cooperating with health officials when they conduct contact tracing and case finding," Phaahla said, adding that they have held webinars about Mpox disease with more than 500 healthcare workers.

Fabian Ndenzako, a doctor with the WHO in South Africa, said they are working with the South African government to provide medicine for those infected with Mpox. A total of 10 doses of vaccine have been packaged in Geneva, Switzerland, and are awaiting paperwork to be processed and then shipped to South Africa.

The WHO defines an outbreak of monkeypox when two cases are confirmed. Ndenzako noted that since all five cases have no travel history, the country could be sitting on a high number of Mpox cases.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick. The virus can be transmitted to humans through physical contact with someone infectious, with contaminated materials, or with infected animals. Symptoms of monkeypox include an unexplained acute rash and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, acute onset of fever, headache, muscle and body aches, and low energy.

According to the WHO, from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2024, a total of 97,208 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported, including 186 deaths from 117 countries. South Africa recorded five cases of monkeypox in 2022, with no cases reported in 2023.



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