/ 19 August 2022

Fifth case of monkeypox confirmed in South Africa

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South Africa has recorded its fifth case of monkeypox. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

South Africa has recorded its fifth case of monkeypox, in a 28-year-old man from Johannesburg who had travelled to Spain and the Netherlands, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

“At this stage, a link has not been established with all these cases but the team is still trying to check whether the last two, number four and five, might have a link because both had travelled to Europe, and it looks like to Spain, among other countries. We know that Spain has already recorded more than 5 000 positive cases and two deaths,” Phaahla told a news briefing.

Although the disease is less severe than coronavirus, the rising number of positive cases had become a “cause of concern”, the health minister added.

“According to a report from the World Health Organisation, there are currently a total of just over 28 000 cases with 11 deaths. Scientists have advised that, at the current moment, there is no need for mass vaccinations because the situation remains under control,” he said.

Phaahla said the disease was similar to smallpox, meaning that although the country had no monkeypox vaccines, most people who had been vaccinated for smallpox would have immunity against monkeypox.

All the reported cases had been mild, with the first four patients having recovered while the fifth was in recovery. 

In June, the health minister announced the country’s first case of monkeypox in a 30-year-old man living in Johannesburg with no travel history.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the disease causes fever and general flu-like symptoms, followed by a blister-like rash on the skin, and is rarely fatal.   

Most cases do not require hospital treatment, while prevention of infection hinges on the isolation of cases until fully recovered, the NICD said in June, adding that the risk to the general population was considered low, given the low transmissibility of the virus.

On Friday, Phaahla also said that one person had died after developing Guillain-Barre syndrome as a result of receiving the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. 

“There is a case of a patient who succumbed to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which has been positively linked to the Johnson vaccine. This is a very rare, but severe, event that is associated with administrations of various vaccines and medicines. It can also be triggered by the Covid-19 infection itself but, in this case, it has been positively associated with the Johnson vaccine,” he said.  

In 2021, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the Covid-19 Vaccine Injury Non-fault Compensation Scheme to offer financial reparation to those who suffered damage, loss or injury as a result of getting a Covid-19 vaccine. 

As of April, no payouts had yet been made, with Yuveng Gounden, spokesperson for the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, saying no direct link had been found “between the vaccines and the injuries suffered by anyone” at the time.