Monkeypox risk remains low but NICD urges health-care workers to be on high alert

Published Aug 17, 2022


Durban - While the risk of the general South African public contracting monkeypox is low, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is urging health-care workers to remain on high alert.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, confirmed the country's fourth case.

The diagnosis was confirmed through testing at a private-sector laboratory on August 14. No deaths have been reported.

The NICD reported that the latest case is a 28-year-old male from the Western Cape who recently travelled to Spain.

He returned to South Africa on August 12 after staying in Barcelona for about two weeks. Public health response measures have been initiated. At the time of this report, there had been no secondary cases linked to this case.

The NICD said between May 25 and August 16, it conducted 323 monkeypox laboratory tests on individuals suspected of contracting the disease within South Africa and other African countries.

"Full genetic sequencing for the case from Gauteng and the first case identified from the Western Cape was conducted. The viral genomes clustered in the B.1 lineage of the Western Africa clade with other viral genomes associated with cases of the current multi-country outbreak," the NICD said.

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.

Phaahla is expected to speak further on the country's monkeypox situation and the government's response at a media briefing on Friday.

Globally, more than 36 900 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases, including 12 deaths, have been reported between January 2022 and August 16. The cases were detected across the European region, Americas, eastern Mediterranean region, Western Pacific region, South-East Asia region and the African region.

The NICD said the majority of the cases have been reported from the World Health Organization (WHO) European region, with over 17 800 cases, and the Americas region, with over 14 900 cases. The African region is the third region reporting more cases, with over 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.

According to the WHO, these five deaths were reported from Spain, Brazil, Peru and India. In the ongoing 2022 multi-country monkeypox outbreak, males aged between 18 and 44 and males who self-identify as men who have sex with men (MSM) and have reported recent sexual activities with one or multiple partners, continue to be disproportionately affected, except in West and Central Africa countries.

Last month, the WHO director-general declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and issued temporary recommendations for countries in order to stop transmission and contain the outbreak.