Experts warn against prejudice as first monkeypox case reported

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(Photo Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images)
(Photo Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images)
  • The first case of monkeypox was reported in the country. 
  • The patient is a 30-year-old man from Johannesburg, who has no travel history. 
  • The NICD is tracing his contacts to determine whether they are also infected. 

Health professionals have called on South Africans not to resort to bigotry around monkeypox. 

On Thursday, the first case of the disease was confirmed in a 30-year-old man in Johannesburg. 

The man has no history of international travel, according to Health Minister Joe Phaahla.

"The disease only spreads through close droplets, so you cannot get it by being in the same room with an infected person. Thus far, it has been dominant in men who have sex with men, but the main feature is that transmission is through close contact."

READ | Monkeypox: 'Too early to call it a pandemic'

The disease was previously reported in African countries, such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Ghana, in the early 2000s.

The current outbreak was reported in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Portugal and France. 

Phaahla said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) was conducting online, in-service training for health workers to be able to detect the disease.  

Professor Kolela Mlisana, who co-chairs the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said all people were susceptible to infection.

"It does not mean it gets transmitted through men who sleep with men, but any direct contact. We are seeing this trend because that is probably how it got introduced in countries outside Africa. The important thing is that we are able to diagnose it, and it is going to be important to contact trace. Right now, it is one case and up to us, as lab people, to be on high alert."

The NICD warned against stigmatising gay people or men who sleep with men.

ALSO READ | Monkeypox cases confirmed in 8 African countries, WHO calls meeting to assess global threat

"Please be aware that the information shared about monkeypox was to provide epidemiological context for the current multi-national outbreak. It was by no means to profile any members of society.

"We would like to stress that any persons, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can acquire monkeypox - if they have had close contact with someone infected with the virus."

The disease presents in skin lesions and spreads through close contact - like sex, hugging and cuddling. 

A communique by the NICD on Thursday said the disease presents with an acute illness characterised by fever and general flu-like symptoms, followed by the eruption of a blister-like rash on the skin. The disease is rarely fatal, and cases typically resolve within two to four weeks and usually does not require hospital treatment. 

"Treatment is symptomatic and a doctor may prescribe medication to treat pain, fever and other discomforts. It is important to keep hydrated, and prevent scratching or bursting the blisters to prevent infection with bacteria. The rash is generally not itchy, but may become itchy when the skin lesions are almost healed." 

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