Health Minister confirms South Africa’s 5th monkeypox case

Published Aug 19, 2022


Durban – National Health Minister Joe Phaahla has confirmed that a fifth case of monkeypox was detected in South Africa.

Speaking during a media briefing on Friday, he said a 28-year-old man from Gauteng was the country’s fifth confirmed case.

The man had recently travelled to the Netherlands and Spain.

“This case was confirmed through a private laboratory. Samples were also sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases for sequencing and contact tracing was activated immediately,” Phaahla said.

He said the country had recorded 5 positive cases from June 22 to August 17.

“There is no link between the first four cases, while the team is trying to establish if there is a link between the 4th and 5th cases since both of them have been to the same country, Spain, which has so far recorded over 5 000 positive cases and two deaths,” Phaahla said.

There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox in South Africa. There are currently three main vaccines in use worldwide for the prevention of monkeypox disease.

“These are ACAM2000, Jynneos – also branded as Imvanex in the European Union – and the third one is LC16m8 vaccine. Although none of them are registered in SA,” the minister said.

Monkeypox is a similar virus to smallpox. South Africa stopped smallpox vaccinations in about 1982 when the global vaccination campaign came to an with the successful eradication of smallpox.

Since then, there have been no smallpox vaccines offered to the general population and smallpox vaccines have not been included in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in South Africa. However, most people over 40 will have some immunity to monkeypox from their smallpox vaccinations.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority said there were currently no smallpox or monkeypox vaccines registered in South Africa, and also no specific antivirals registered, nor had there been any applications to register.

According to the World Health Organization, 27 814 cases and 11 deaths have been reported in 89 countries/areas/territories across all six WHO regions since January 2022.

At this stage, scientists have advised that there is no need for mass vaccination because the situation is under control.

“This is in line with the WHO recommending against mass vaccination of general populations with monkeypox vaccines at this point in time based on limited access and supply of available vaccines and because most people are not at risk of infection,” Phaahla said

SA's monkeypox cases

Case 1 – Recorded on June 22: 30-year-old man from Gauteng with no travel history but presented with symptoms suggestive of monkeypox,

Case 2 – Recorded on June 22: 32-year-old man living in the Western Cape, no recent travel history, presented with symptoms suggestive of monkeypox.

Case 3 – Recorded on July 10: 42-year-old male tourist from Switzerland, visiting Limpopo, displayed symptoms suggestive of monkeypox. The patient has since fully recovered and returned to Switzerland.

Case 4 – Recorded on August 14: 28-year-old man from the Western Cape who recently travelled to Spain and presented with symptoms suggestive of monkeypox a few days after his return. Tracing of close contacts is under way and the person is self-isolating.

Case 5 – Recorded on August 16: 28-year-old man from Johannesburg who had recently travelled to the Netherlands/Spain.

Phaahla said while the World Health Organization had not recommended any travel restrictions, it was important for travellers to endemic countries to alert health officials on the situation to enable them to provide guidance for case detection and management.

Port health officials continue to follow screening measures which include visual observation, temperature screening and analysis of travellers’ health questionnaire at the ports of entry – airports, border gates and sea ports.

While the risk of contracting monkeypox in South African is low, the NICD has warned health-care workers to remain on high alert. The NICD urged health-care workers to be cautious, especially when attending to people presenting an unexplained acute rash or skin lesions as well as headaches, a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, myalgia and backache.

The NICD said most of the cases have been reported from the WHO European region, with more than 17 800 cases, and the Americas region, with more than 14 900 cases. The African region is the third region reporting more cases, with more than 380 confirmed cases.

The 12 monkeypox-associated deaths reported included five deaths that occurred outside of Central and West Africa, where monkeypox is usually found.