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South Africa’s Response to the Mpox Outbreak: Efforts and Challenges

South Africa, amidst a global outbreak of Mpox, is tackling its local transmission with rigorous healthcare measures and targeted communication. Minister Joe Phaahla outlines the national strategy to curb the spread of the disease, focusing on surveillance, treatment, and community engagement. Mpox, formerly known as Monkeypox, has seen a global outbreak since 2022, with South Africa also experiencing its effects. Minister Joe Phaahla has highlighted the nation’s efforts to control the spread and address the outbreak’s challenges. Since 2022, South Africa has reported five cases, all in men aged 30-39 with no travel history, indicating local transmission. The virus spreads through close contact and contaminated surfaces, posing a significant public health risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported over 97,000 confirmed Mpox cases globally by April 2024, with the Americas, Africa, and Europe being the most affected regions. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reported the highest number of cases in Africa.

Mpox is caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV), an orthopoxvirus that spreads through close contact and from unknown animal reservoirs in certain African regions. The disease is particularly prevalent among men who have sex with men (MSM) and individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those living with HIV.

In South Africa, all five cases required hospitalization, with one fatality reported in Gauteng. The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and private sector laboratories are conducting tests, with the NICD serving as the reference laboratory. Epidemiological surveillance continues to identify and investigate cases, with 38 contacts traced in KwaZulu-Natal alone.

Currently, no registered treatment for Mpox exists in South Africa, but the WHO recommends Tecovirimat for severe cases. South Africa has obtained Tecovirimat through SAPHRA approval for compassionate use. Three patients have received this treatment, and plans for a stockpile are underway.

Vaccination strategies are also being considered for high-risk groups, including healthcare workers and MSM. The National Advisory Group for Immunisation (NAGI) is exploring options for pre- and post-exposure vaccines, with potential support from WHO member countries and GAVI.

Risk communication remains a priority, with targeted awareness campaigns reaching high-risk populations and public engagement through webinars for healthcare professionals. Community engagement is crucial to prevent stigma and ensure those at risk are informed and supported.

Despite no travel restrictions, it is vital for travelers to stay informed and cooperate with health officials. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent the spread and reduce fatalities. Minister Phaahla emphasizes the importance of community cooperation in contact tracing and case management to disrupt local transmission and save lives.

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    Webster Molaudi

    With over 20 years of experience in digital marketing, I possess a demonstrated history of success in overseeing online communities and executing digital advertising initiatives for esteemed brands such as Sowetan LIVE, SundayWorld newspaper, 3S Media, Peugeot and Citroen South Africa, RedSquare, Motus Renault South Africa and various private enterprises.
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