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Following news reports today that a 30-year-old Johannesburg man has been confirmed as the first person in South Africa to be confirmed as having contracted monkeypox, I would like to assure our city’s residents to remain calm and inform themselves about the facts around this illness.
Around 3,000 people worldwide have contracted monkeypox since May this year. The current strain of the disease is not considered fatal and sufferers begin to experience symptoms within seven to 14 days of exposure. Anyone with monkeypox must be kept in isolation and anyone who finds they had contact with someone with monkeypox must be traced and isolated too.
Although there has been a common theme that monkeypox is being spread by men who have had sex with men, I would like to caution against putting too much store in this, since as a society we may be risking a repeat of some of the same mistakes that were made in the 1980s during the HIV/Aids epidemic when that disease was too easily dismissed as something that only affected gay men.
Anyone was susceptible to contracting HIV, and it is indeed the same with monkeypox. The virus can be spread through close contact among people, and it need not be contact of a sexual nature. However, this virus does not transmit easily and it is important that as a society we remain calm and do not react with the same level of panic as occurred at the start of the coronavirus epidemic in 2020.
In Africa, most monkeypox cases have been documented among children under 15 years old. Outside of Africa, the disease appears to be more common in men who have sex with men, but there are numerous cases in people who don’t fall into that category.
Monkeypox is related to and presents as a milder form of smallpox, which the World Health Organisation removed from the face of the earth in 1980, and that remains one of the greatest global health successes in history. I am confident that monkeypox can be defeated in the same way.
If you experience monkeypox symptoms such as a rash, swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms, please try not to come into contact with anyone else and please ensure that you present yourself for testing and treatment.
Most sufferers recover completely within two to four weeks, without needing hospital treatment.
Issued by The City of Johannesburg MMC for Health and Social Development