The National Department of Health has urged South Africans to remain calm following Sunday’s announcement that monkeypox is now a public health emergency of international concern.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), stated that there are now more than 16 000 cases in 75 countries. So far, five people have lost their lives to the virus.
Back home, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that from 22 June until 19 July, there have been three unlinked laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases.
If you are recovering from #monkeypox at home, protect others by staying in a separate room, using separate utensils, doing your own laundry and cleaning shared spaces such as bathrooms after every use. Abstain from any close contact including sex, touching, hugs, or kissing. pic.twitter.com/eC1645vZOW
— NICD (@nicd_sa) July 18, 2022
These cases were recorded in Gauteng, Western Cape and Limpopo among males aged 30, 32 and 42 years, respectively. While none of the infected individuals had travelled overseas, the Gautenger had close contact with someone with international travel history. The Western Cape case also had unspecified contact with people who had travelled abroad.
So far, 226 monkeypox laboratory tests (PCR) have been conducted in the country.
The Limpopo case is an imported case involving a tourist who has since returned to his home country of Switzerland.
Health department calls for calm
Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said the country remains on high alert.
“There is a need to intensify awareness about the disease among the public and encourage people to still use some prevention protocols against COVID-19. Hand hygiene has proven especially effective during the pandemic,” said Mohale.
Mohale also stated that it’s too early for the public to panic because the situation is under control and the department is working closely with the NICD. WHO-SA is also closely monitoring the situation and will keep the public updated.
“The Department is well prepared with heightened screening and surveillance services used during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the same applies to monkeypox, especially at our ports,” explained Mohale. “Tests are done at health facilities, doctor’s rooms and practices and are not available at pharmacies.”
The NICD warned although the risk is low among South African citizens, healthcare workers should be on high alert.
‘Let’s work together’
Dr Ghebreyesus is encouraging people to work together to help stop the spread of monkeypox.
“For the moment, this is an outbreak concentrated among men who have sex with men. That means that it can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” he said.
Dr Ghebreyesus added that it’s essential for all countries to design and deliver effective information and services. They also need to adopt measures that protect affected communities’ health, human rights and dignity.
“I am also calling on civil society organisations, including those with experience in working with people living with HIV, to work with us in fighting stigma and discrimination,” said Ghebreyesus. – Health-e News