BMA puts measures in place to avert spread of mpox as cases rise

South Africa now has 13 confirmed cases on Mpox, previously known as Monkeypox. Graphic: Se-Anne Rall/IOL

South Africa now has 13 confirmed cases on Mpox, previously known as Monkeypox. Graphic: Se-Anne Rall/IOL

Published Jun 25, 2024


Border Management Authority commissioner Dr Michael Masiapato has announced that the BMA port health officials have developed an outbreak preparedness plan that outlines the response in dealing with Mpox.

Mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick.

So far, South Africa has had two deaths due to the disease and has 13 confirmed cases. Seven of the cases were confirmed in KwaZulu-Natal, five in Gauteng and one in the Western Cape. A response plan has been activated.

The World Health Organization says the multi-country outbreak of mpox from January 1, 2022, to April 30, 2024, showed that there were 97 208 laboratory-confirmed cases including 186 deaths from 117 countries in all six WHO regions.

Masiapato said the BMA is implementing screening processes for travellers entering the country at all ports of entry. He highlighted that at the airports, the first phase of screening occurs when the conveyance operator, who is the captain of the aircraft and crew members, provides a general declaration of health.

This is a document that is required to be completed by all conveyance operators, where they declare that no travellers have reported or were found to be ill on board. This is in terms of International Health Regulations.

Masiapato also reported that the process that follows is where travellers are subjected to thermal screening for checking temperature.

He said this screening of temperature is implemented at land and seaports as well.

Masiapato said should the traveller present with an elevated temperature, such traveller will be isolated and assisted with further screening. This will involve interviews to establish experiencing of other symptoms.

He said the authority’s port health officer will also conduct their own general and non-invasive observation of the traveller under investigation.

“BMA port health officers are well trained to be vigilant to observe for any lesions and other symptoms during their operations at the ports. In any incident, should there be a case presented to the authority that would need further referral to a health facility, arrangements have been made with ambulance services from the health department for referral to healthcare facilities.

“We are also in close collaboration with the communicable disease facilities in the districts in order to respond swiftly and ensure immediate reporting of any suspected traveller that meets the mpox disease symptom profile,” said Masiapato

He said BMA port health officials have also elevated the focus to be on health education and awareness to travellers

At this stage there have been no incidents of mpox suspicions detected in the ports of entry thus far, Masiapato said.

He said in line with the communication from national health, the authority continues to encourage travellers to continue with chronic conditions medication as people with chronic conditions have presented more severe manifestation of symptoms.

“We also encourage travellers suspecting any symptoms to seek medical care immediately, especially those who have a travel history to areas with cases of mpox.”

National Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said the department urges all people, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation, with suspected mpox symptoms or who had physical contact with known cases to present themselves at a healthcare facility for clinical evaluation because anyone can contract this preventable and treatable disease.

Meanwhile, the Gauteng Health Department revealed that it is investigating 20 suspected cases of mpox.

Tebogo Matjokotja from the department said officials await results of 20 suspected cases.

“We have 20 suspected cases, tests are under way at national health laboratories after that they will be confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) as advised by the minister,” said Matjokotja in an interview with Newzroom Afrika.