Concern about Mpox’s rising deaths and surge in cases

Mpox a concern globally. file image

Mpox a concern globally. file image

Published Jul 7, 2024


Cape Town - The World Health Organization together with academics and professionals in the health sector, including the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, engaged this week in a Health Systems Strengthening seminar as the number of mpox cases recorded stands close to 100 000, with 203 deaths globally, three of which were reported in South Africa.

They said since January 2022, 116 member states of WHO have reported mpox cases across its six regions.

As of May 31 this year, there were a total of 97 745 laboratory-confirmed cases and 535 probable cases, including 203 deaths, and in the past month, 15 countries reported an increase.

Dr Joseph Wamala, an epidemiologist, said the fatalities were a concern.

“In May there were around 700 (infection) cases reported. These are the trends in deaths, with the highest fatality rates reported in the South-East Asia.

“Underlying co-morbidities are the driving force of the number of cases that we see, such as HIV including mutations.”

In an index shown on the global mpox deaths by month and region, the African continent had 30 deaths.

Wamala added that South Africa reported three deaths for 2024, while the Democratic Republic of Congo reported eight, Cameroon, three and Liberia five, making South Africa and Cameroon the third highest countries for fatalities this year so far.

He added that with contact tracing, the Western Cape had 39 cases, while Gauteng reported 55 and KwaZulu-Natal had 54, and that of the 16 cases in the country, all were men between the ages of 23 and 43.

The doctor explained that due to the epidemiological curve of laboratory-confirmed mpox cases by province, in South Africa in 2024, 15 out of 16 cases were classified as severe.

“In all, 85% (11 out 16) are HIV positive, with either an unmanaged or recently diagnosed disease,” he said.

“Seven out of the 16 received tecovirimat treatment through Sahpra (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority) Section approval.”

Dr Siddharth Nair of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said some of the cases globally showed infection in females.

“Some 96% of cases with available data are males with a median age 34, males between 18 and 44,” she said.

“And 3.6 % of cases with available data are female. Most common transmission is via sexual encounters.

“A total of 85.7 % of the cases with sexual data identify as men who have sex with men.

“A total of 51.9% of cases with known HIV status were people living with HIV.”

Nair said in the West and Central Africa region, as of May 359 were males 313 were females, and 119 were 0 to 4 years old (transmission in infants and children).”

The WHO explained that the first mpox case in humans was reported in the 1970s and that in 2023 and 2024 there was a significant increase in cases and deaths. Mpox was first detected in monkeys in 1958 in Denmark, which were from Africa.

They said globally they were working on recruiting retired professionals if needed, and would focus on surveillance, analysis, field support to global initiatives in strengthening partnerships in the fight against mpox.

Last month, the Western Cape reported its first case, with a total of 16 cases across the country.

Weekend Argus