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South Africa Announces Mpox Outbreak

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The government of South Africa has declared an outbreak of Mpox following the confirmation of a case in Gauteng province, marking a significant local transmission event with no travel history to countries with active Mpox outbreaks.

As of today, there are seven laboratory-confirmed cases and two deaths, resulting in a Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) of 28.6 percent. The cases are distributed across three provinces: Gauteng (3 cases), KwaZulu-Natal (3 cases) and Western Cape (1 case). All cases were confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of South Africa.

The infected individuals, all male and aged between 30 and 39 are HIV-positive and have been classified as severe cases requiring hospitalisation. Five of the seven men identified as “men who have sex with men.” None of the confirmed cases have a history of travel to countries with ongoing Mpox outbreaks.

Preliminary genetic sequencing from three of the cases indicates the presence of Clade IIb, responsible for the largest multi-country Mpox outbreak in 2022. This suggests a significant and concerning local spread of the virus.

In response, the South African Ministry of Health has deployed rapid response teams to assist with further investigations. Contacts of the confirmed cases are being monitored for 21 days and efforts are underway to conduct active case searches, manage cases and communicate risks within affected communities.

On June 13, 2024, director-general of Africa CDC, Dr. Jean Kaseya met with South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla and director-general of the National Department of Health, Dr. Sandile Buthelezi to coordinate the response to the outbreak.

Kaseya stated, “At Africa CDC, we commend the leadership and efforts of the South African government in managing this outbreak and appreciate the support from partners like WHO. We are committed to supporting South Africa in securing the necessary doses of Mpox vaccines and building capacity for event-based surveillance focusing on community and health facility. An Mpox outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere. We call for swift and urgent action to increase access to Mpox diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics for all affected African countries.”

Since January 2024, seven African countries have reported Mpox cases, totaling 8,401 cases and 412 deaths, with 97 percent of these cases reported from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In response, Africa CDC held a high-level emergency meeting in the DRC in April 2024 to address the critical need for timely and accurate data, and to strengthen preparedness and response measures across the continent.

Mpox is a zoonotic viral disease transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or humans or through exposure to contaminated materials. The CFR of Mpox ranges from 0-11 percent in the general population.

The South African government’s swift action in addressing this outbreak reflects the urgency and gravity of the situation. Continued vigilance, rapid response, and international cooperation will be crucial in controlling the spread of Mpox and protecting public health across the region.

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