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The KwaZulu-Natal health department said on Thursday it was on high alert for the monkeypox virus, which is prevalent in some countries.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane allayed fears, saying everything possible was being done “to screen people and cargo coming in from countries where the disease has been confirmed”.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the department’s post-budget stakeholder engagement programme in Durban.

Simelane reiterated the statement by national health director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi this week that there have been no laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “since May 13 , cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 12 member states that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions”.

“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing. However, reported cases so far have no established travel links to endemic areas. Based on available information, cases have mainly, but not exclusively, been identified among men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.”

Nonendemic countries such as Australia, US, UK, Italy, Canada and France have reported cases between May 13 and 21.

Monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans from animals with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.

The virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period is usually from six to 13 days, but can range from five to 21 days.

Simelane said the province’s communicable disease surveillance and control systems had been activated and it was ready for any eventuality.

The province’s healthcare facilities “have enough isolation and quarantine beds that can accommodate patients in the event that monkeypox hits the province”.



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