Thursday, 23 June 2022 12:27

First case of monkeypox recorded in South Africa.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The national Department of Health has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in South Africa, in a 30-year-old man from Johannesburg.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla confirmed the diagnosis on Thursday morning and said contact tracing of the patient has begun.

"Monkeypox is usually a mild disease manifesting as blisters on the skin. It is usually mild and self-limiting with a fatality rate of 1%. The disease has previously been reported in African countries such as Nigeria, DRC, CA Republic and Ghana in the early 2000s.

"The current outbreak is dominated by high numbers in Europe eg UK, Spain, Germany, Portugal and France. Cases have also been reported in the USA and Canada."

The NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases) is conducting online in service training for our health workers for them to be able to detect the disease so that the necessary laboratory tests can be done. The disease only spread through close droplets so you cannot get by being in the same room with an infected person. Thus far it has been dominant in men who have sex with men, but the main feature is that transmission is through close contact," Phaahla said.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal. Severe cases may occur in children, pregnant woman and in individuals that are immunocompromised.

Meanwhile Phaahla said even though the government has repealed all Covid-19 regulations, people should not be embarrassed to continue wearing masks.

"We still encourage citizens, especially in indoor settings, to feel free to wear a mask. The masks have shown to be helpful in preventing the spread of respiratory diseases. Don't feel embarrassed just because government said it's [not] compulsory. All that we are saying is, it is now in our hands to make those decisions."

From Thursday, for the first time in more than two years, South Africans were free to ditch their masks in public places.

Phaahla also removed restrictions on international arrivals that required a vaccine certificate or a negative PCR test. In addition, restrictions on gatherings were removed. 

Phaahla added that the government would continue to monitor the disease.

"There is no optimism that it will become endemic and remain like that. There is no certainty that we will not get a variant that will escape the immunity that we have."

He said vaccinations would continue to be available and would be integrated into normal health services.