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Identifying Monkeypox in SA took long, says expert

The country’s overstretched health-care system could be in for another disease outbreak after a monkeypox case was confirmed in a 30-year-old Joburg man with no recent travel history.

The country’s overstretched health-care system could be in for another disease outbreak after a monkeypox case was confirmed in a 30-year-old Joburg man with no recent travel history.

Published Jun 24, 2022

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Cape Town - The country’s overstretched health-care system could be in for another disease outbreak after a monkeypox case was confirmed in a 30-year-old Joburg man with no recent travel history.

The first case was confirmed on Thursday at the time the government scrapped the remaining Covid-19 curbs including wearing of masks, gatherings and international travelling.

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed that contact tracing has started, identifying any additional linked cases of monkeypox in South Africa.

NICD spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said in a statement: “Monkeypox is a rare viral infection in humans.

“Since May 2022, monkeypox has been reported in more than 3 000 individuals from several European countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

“This is the first multi-country outbreak of monkeypox and is already the largest outbreak of monkeypox recorded.

“The cases to date mostly involve individuals that self-identify as men having sex with men.

“Risk factors include reporting multiple sexual partners.

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“Recent large social events are thought to have served as super-spreader events.”

The virus can be transmitted to others through close contact such as kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox lesions (wound).

People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

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“Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The virus is not very contagious and does not spread in the same way as viruses such as influenza and SARS-CoV2,” said the NICD.

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

Stellenbosch University head of the division of infectious diseases Dr Jantjie Taljaard, said he was just “surprised” that it took so long to positively identify a case of monkeypox in the country.

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Taljaard said there were various reasons how the man could have contracted the virus.

“But most likely this person had contact with someone who travelled.

“Alternatively, the virus has circulated in the country for longer than we think and we are only now identifying them due to the heightened awareness and increased laboratory testing,” said Taljaard.

Enquiries to the provincial government on their readiness plan against the spread of monkeypox had been referred to the department of health and wellness but had not been answered by deadline.

The developments come as the country has exited the recent fifth wave of Covid-19, leading to the repulsion of restrictions.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said: “We have been monitoring the epidemic working with the NICD and the current epidemiological analysis, points towards lower infection rates and that the country has exited the recent spike or 5th wave which the current limited regulations were promulgated to mitigate.”

Pro-choice activist Debbie Els said the announcement was a small victory for them after leading several protests against Covid-19 regulations, mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports last year.

“We were assaulted and arrested throughout these two years of lockdown while we fought for our rights.

“The police attacked me and four other women and a child.

“We said there were no scientific reasons for all these regulations.

“Yet so many suffered due to ignorance and power hungry politicians,” she said.

Premier Alan Winde said it was time to move on and learn to live with Covid-19.

“It is now up to all residents to use the lessons they have learnt over the past two years to keep themselves safe.

“It is about individual responsibility.

“We have shown our health system has the capabilities and so we no longer require any further curbs which have been throttling our economic potential.”

Cape Times

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