Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

NICD working with healthcare workers on surveillance measures to detect Monkeypox

The multinational Monkeypox outbreak has been linked to international travellers with community-based spread, says the NICD.

Although no cases of Monkeypox have been detected in South Africa to date, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it remains on high alert for any cases of the virus.

The NICD on Wednesday briefed the media virtually on the multinational outbreak of Monkeypox.

Dr Jacqueline Weyer, from the Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases, said the institute had already taken steps as the international outbreak developed.  

She said the measures put in place related to surveillance, case investigation and contact tracing.

“We are increasing vigilance and awareness in healthcare workers. So we are equipping them with tools to help them to identify these cases and then to work with all the different roles players within the public health sphere to deal with any cases if we have those,” Weyer said.

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“We are also giving guidance for responding to suspected cases, how we’re going to deal with it step-by-step, and also guidance for healthcare workers on how they could go about managing any confirmed cases if there would be a need to do that,” she added.

Monkeypox is a virus that can be transmitted to a person from contact with an animal, human or materials contaminated with the virus. It is transmitted through skin wounds, respiratory tract, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).

The virus made headlines this month after 19 countries – including the US, Canada and Australia – reported either confirmed or suspected cases of Monkeypox.

The recent cases of Monkeypox have taken scientists by surprise because the virus is usually very endemic, not highly transmissible and common in remote parts of Central and West Africa.

Simultaneous cases reported

Weyer said the recent cases of Monkeypox were unprecedented because this was the first outbreak of the virus to involve cases simultaneously reported from various non-endemic locations around the globe.

“It is already the largest outbreak of Monkeypox recorded outside of endemic locations,” she said.

The Monkeypox outbreak, Weyer said, was linked to international travellers with community-based spread.

She said the source and linkage of the cases were unknown at this stage, but investigations continued.

Mostly men affected

According to the NICD, based on international data, mostly men were being diagnosed with Monkeypox in the countries where cases had been reported. But to date, no fatalities had been reported.

“110 of the confirmed cases are male and they are in the age range of 20 and 59 years. There are also links for transmission for some of these cases in males that self-identify as men having sex with men,” Weyer said.

She said the illness was usually mild and most people who caught it recovered within two to four weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.

“Person-to-person transmission really requires close contact. This is not a virus that is highly transmissible from human to human. It is not at all the same as the flu virus or Covid-19.”

Self-limiting virus

Weyer added that Monkeypox was a self-limiting infection without any long-term side effects and did not require vaccination.

“Although it looks really horrible, the good news is that it’s a self-limiting disease.

“It’s one of those diseases that with most people, their immune system takes care of it and there’s not been any hospitalisation or medical treatment required.”


Because Monkeypox is a member of the Poxviridae family of viruses, which includes smallpox, Weyer said there had been no change in the virus over time.

“Here we are dealing with a DNA virus and our experience with a DNA virus is that they don’t actually mutate very quickly.

“They’re very stable over time and you can even find that these viruses have no changes over decades.”

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