Department calls for vigilance after a positive case of mpox in Gauteng 

The National Department of Health has called for vigilance after a 35-year-old man tested positive for Monkeypox  (mpox) last week. 

In a statement released on Monday, the department says the case was first tested by Lancet laboratory and later confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

Mpox is a rare viral infectious disease in humans caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV).

The case identified in Gauteng is caused by a distinct MPXV clade I. This is the same virus behind the mpox outbreak in  the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been ongoing since 2023. Clade I has a higher virulence, which means that it causes more serious illness; and it has a higher fatality rate – leads to more deaths. This is in comparison with clade II, which drove the 2022-2023 global mpox outbreak

“Additionally, transmission of MPXV clade I is mostly observed among heterosexual individuals through sexual transmission, particularly among female sex workers,” Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla says in the statement.  

However, Phaahla says, a preliminary investigation suggests that the patient in South Africa has no recent travel history to countries experiencing an outbreak of the disease. 

“The National and Gauteng Health departments have been actively involved in managing the situation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends increasing vigilance for cases with contact tracing and monitoring of laboratory-confirmed cases,” he says. 

Phaahla adds that the risk to the general population is considered low. The last reported cases of Mpox in South Africa were in August 2022.

He says although the virus is generally not highly transmissible from person-to-person, it has increased in global public health significance.

Mpox presents with an acute illness characterised by fever and general flu-like symptoms. This is followed by the eruption of a blister-like rash on the skin. 

“It can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. Most people fully recover but some get very sick. The disease is rarely fatal and cases typically resolve within two or four weeks. Most cases do not require hospital treatment,” he says. 

He says isolation of confirmed cases allows for the prevention of transmission and interruption of the cycle of transmission. 

“Circulation of the MPXV in humans may be eliminated through this classic containment approach. Mass vaccination against the MPXV is not currently recommended. The risk to the general population is considered low, given the low transmissibility of the virus.” – Health-e News

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