NICD detects first case of dreaded monkeypox in South Africa

A first case of monkeypox has been detected in South Africa, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said during a cabinet briefing on Thursday.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, has confirmed that a case of monkeypox was identified through laboratory testing on Wednesday.

“The case involves a 30-year-old male residing in the Gauteng province. He reported no recent travel history and contact tracing has commenced, identifying any additional linked cases of monkeypox in South Africa,” said the NICD.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection in humans. Since May, more than 3 000 cases have been reported from several European countries, the US, Canada, Australia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The NICD said the cases mostly involve individuals that identify as men having sex with men, noting that risk factors include having multiple sexual partners. Recent large social events are also thought to have served as super-spreader events.

The NICD further shared that the virus is not highly transmissible, saying close physical contact is required for transmission. The virus does not spread similarly to influenza or the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The World Health Organisation has recommended increasing vigilance for cases with contact tracing and monitoring of laboratory-confirmed cases.

“Isolation of confirmed cases allows for the prevention of transmission and interruption of the cycle of transmission. Circulation of the monkeypox virus in humans may be eliminated through this classic containment approach,” said the NICD, adding that severe cases might break out in children, pregnant women and individuals that are immuno-compromised.

Mass vaccination against the monkeypox virus is not currently recommended.

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