Health Department urges South Africans with suspected mpox symptoms to seek medical help

South Africa has received its first batch of antiviral drugs to treat mpox. Picture: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

South Africa has received its first batch of antiviral drugs to treat mpox. Picture: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Published Jun 24, 2024


South Africa has received its first batch of antiviral drugs to treat mpox as the national Health Department revealed an increase in infection.

The country received a batch of mpox specific treatment, Tecovirimat, aka Tpoxx or ST-246), for treatment of patients who experience severe health complications as a result of mpox.

On Thursday, the department said the country had 13 confirmed cases of mpox. Two people had died from the disease.

On Monday, the Gauteng department said it was investigating 30 cases.

The World Health Organization says the multicountry 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.

Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale said the process to secure more treatment, including vaccines, was under way in case the need arose.

However, all mild cases would continue to be managed with supportive treatment to treat complications like fever, pneumonia and skin infections.

“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 the health-care facility for clinical evaluation because anyone can contract this preventable and treatable disease,” Mohale said.

“The country has detected six more laboratory-confirmed cases of mpox (previously known as monkey pox). This brings the total number of cases from seven to 13 cases.”

Seven of the cases were confirmed in KwaZulu-Natal, five in Gauteng and one in the Western Cape.

Speaking on “Newzroom Afrika” on Monday, UKZN infectious disease specialist Dr Richard Lessells said people who had healthier immune systems experienced mild symptoms but those who had weaker immune systems tended to have more severe symptoms.

“Unfortunately, in people with very weakened immune systems, and in our context, that is largely people with what we call advanced HIV. So, that’s people with HIV who are not on effective antiretrovirals and have very low CD4s.

“That disease can be very different in this group and it can be much more severe. They could have additional complications of the disease, and that, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to poor outcomes and to death. This is the group that will often require drug therapy and treatment and so far, we’ve been able to obtain treatment for the more severe cases in South Africa,” said Lessells.

Quick Facts

* Hand hygiene is one of the effective ways to protect people from getting sick and prevent transmission of the diseases.

* Always wash hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially before eating or touching your face and after using the bathroom.

* Some of the common symptoms of mpox include a rash which may last for 2 to 4 weeks, fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy and swollen glands (lymph nodes).

* The painful rash looks like blisters or sores and can affect the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, groin and so on.

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