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By Jarryd Westerdale

Digital Journalist

First Mpox death reported in SA – Vaccines on the way

Here is what you need to know about the Mpox disease spreading in South Africa as well as who is at most risk of infection

One Mpox death has forced the Department of Health (DoH) to take special measures to limit the disease’s spread.

There have been five confirmed cases, with two cases in Gauteng and three in KZN.

The first death came at Thembisa Hospital, with the severity of that patients’ symptoms leaving them unable to swallow the necessary treatment.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla held a briefing on Wednesday morning, 12 June, to update the public on the severity of the disease and the available treatments.

No registered treatment for Mpox

Minister Phaahla stated that South Africa had no registered medication specific to Mpox. As a result, the DoH has obtained emergency use approval for the necessary treatment.

With the assistance of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the DoH is also seeking to procure a vaccine that has been developed to combat the virus.

Phaahla noted that the vaccine will not be procured, but that doses will be donated by donor groups and WHO member states who have existing stockpiles.  

ALSO READ: New case of monkeypox confirmed at Ahmed Kathrada Hospital

There will be no mass vaccination but pre-emptive treatment will be targeted at sex workers, health workers and laboratory workers.

Demographics most at risk

People with compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions are most at risk of severe complications, with officials stating that early treatment is vital.

Head of Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Jacqueline Weyer, stated that South Africa’s five patients contracted the virus through intimate contact.

She added that 85% of cases reported, in this and the 2022 outbreak in the country, were in males who had self-disclosed as being men having sex with men.

Phaahla and Dr Weyer stressed the virus was spread through skin-to-skin contact and could not be transmitted in the same way influenza or other aerosol infections.

ALSO READ: Second case of Mpox confirmed as Health Department warns against stigmas

Dr Weyer explained that Monkeypox, the virus that causes the Mpox disease, can see spill-over infection from animals, but asserted that there had been no zoonotic transmission in South Africa.

Healthcare workers trained

500 healthcare workers across the nation have received training on how to deal with patients displaying Mpox symptoms.

The DoH urged anyone displaying symptoms to get tested early and not fear any stigmatisation.

Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and respiratory symptoms such as a sore through or nasal congestion.

The identified patients have no notable travel history and no travel alert or restrictions had been issued, considering the nature of transmission.

Phaahla and Dr Weyer stressed the need to combat any stigma around reporting the disease so that health workers could properly trace the extent of the spread.

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