SA records second case of mpox

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Department of Health has urged people experiencing suspected symptoms of mpox disease to visit their nearest healthcare provider for screening and testing to ensure early diagnosis and effective treatment.

This is after the country recorded the second laboratory-confirmed case of mpox disease. 

The new patient is a 39-year-old male who was admitted at Addington Hospital in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, without a travel history to countries and regions currently experiencing the disease outbreak. 

The first case was logged in Gauteng when a 35-year-old man tested positive on 9 May 2024.

The infectious disease is caused by the monkeypox virus and has the potential to cause painful or itchy rash-like pimples or blisters and fever. 

The department working closely with the province and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has activated contact tracing and case finding to identify and assess people in contact with the patient to prevent further transmission, especially at a household and community level.

“This will also assist to establish if the second case was in contact with the first case confirmed in Gauteng earlier this month.” 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) a total of 466 laboratory-confirmed cases of mpox and three deaths from 22 countries were reported globally in March 2024. 

According to the department, this illustrates that low-level transmission continues worldwide.

The most affected WHO regions include Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Western Pacific and South-East Asia.

“In the African region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports the highest number of confirmed positive cases, which represents just over a tenth of the suspected clinically compatible cases and deaths reported.” 

Meanwhile, the department said stigma and discrimination may prolong a disease outbreak by stopping people from coming forward for information or seeking testing or care, which undermines public health efforts.

“We urge the public and communities to support those who test positive for mpox to take treatment and those with suspected symptoms to go for screening and testing instead of discriminating against them.” 

Meanwhile, South Africa is currently experiencing the annual influenza (flu) season, which started in the week of 22 April 2024. 

According to the department, several flu strains are circulating causing severe health complications in some patients. 

“This has been confused with the COVID-19 variant which has been in circulation with a low level of transmissibility and severity.” 

The most commonly detected and circulating flu is “swine flu” because it causes disease in pigs, followed by influenza B/Victoria and influenza A (H3N2). 

The department said this was not unusual as swine flu has been circulating as one of the annual seasonal flu strains since 2010. 

“Influenza A virus is more severe in adults. About 8% to 10% of patients hospitalised for pneumonia and 25% of patients with flu-like illness such as fever and cough will test positive for influenza during the flu season in South Africa.” 

According to the NICD surveillance data, the numbers of flu cases and positivity rates are increasing rapidly, but the transmission and impact remain at a moderate level of activity for both outpatient and hospitalised cases. 

“This means that while there is a lot of influenza circulating, it is still within the expected range for a normal influenza season. Influenza may cause severe illness leading to hospitalisation or possibly death, especially among those who are at risk of severe influenza illness or complications.” 

High-risk groups include pregnant women, mothers six weeks after delivery, individuals living with HIV, those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, tuberculosis, heart disease, renal disease, obesity, the elderly and children under two years old. 

“These groups of people are strongly encouraged to receive the influenza vaccine available freely at public health clinics or a cost from private healthcare providers and through pharmacies.”

Ideally, the vaccine should be administered before the start of the flu season because it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop, but it is not too late for people to get it to protect themselves and their loved ones against these viruses.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, ventilation, and regular hand washing with water and soap or sanitiser can help to minimise the spread of the disease. –