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No monkeypox cases detected in SA but the risk of importation is a reality, says NICD

Test tube labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Test tube labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Published May 23, 2022


With more than 140 cases of monkeypox reported globally, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has confirmed that there are no known cases in South Africa, however, the risk of the virus entering the country’s borders is a reality.

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NICD executive director Professor Adrian Puren said travellers entering South Africa should report any illness during travel or upon return from an endemic area, to a health-care professional.

“The implications for South Africa are that the risk of importation of monkeypox is a reality as lessons learnt from Covid-19 have illustrated that outbreaks in another part of the world can fast become a global concern,” he said.

On May 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of two laboratory-confirmed cases and one probable case of monkeypox in the UK. Since then, 15 countries have collectively reported more than 140 cases.

No monkeypox-associated deaths have been reported.

Most of the new cases have been reported in the UK, Portugal and Spain. Other countries, including the US, Belgium, France, Australia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands, have fewer than five confirmed cases.

WHO says the monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids and respiratory droplets.

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Symptoms of the virus are similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.

The NICD said males, mostly ages between 20 and 55, had accounted for more than 70% of cases. They had been detected through sexual health services.

“Most cases are mild and present with lesions on the genitalia or peri-genital areas. Additional symptoms include rash, fever, painful lymph nodes, and oral ulcers,” said the institute.

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Over the weekend, the WHO said the situation was evolving and more cases of monkeypox were expected.

“Based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.

Dr Jacqueline Weyer, from the Centre for Emerging, Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases (CEZPD), said that if a monkeypox case was reported in South Africa, the NICD Sequencing Core Facility would work to provide sequencing analysis.

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“The NICD is equipped to test for monkeypox as the CEZPD has a diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in place and electron-microscopy capacity,” she said.


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