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Monkeypox/ Mpox- What symptoms should you look out for 

The Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla, with a total of 16 confirmed positive cases to date, health authorities are working tirelessly to control the outbreak and prevent further spread.

HOW MANY CONFIRMED CASES HAVE BEEN REPORTED IN SA?

According to Phaala, a 40-year-old man from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, who had tested positive for Mpox but was never admitted to the hospital died. This death marks the third fatality linked to the disease, with two in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng.

To curb the spread of the disease, the Department has initiated a health education campaign with funeral parlours on handling human remains of those who have succumbed to Mpox. Mohale sought to alleviate public fears regarding potential travel restrictions or lockdowns, pointing out that the World Health Organization has not recommended such measures.

“It is important for travellers from Mpox endemic countries to seek healthcare if they feel unwell and to inform health officials about their travel history for proper clinical guidance,” Mohale emphasised.

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH URGED THE PUBLIC TO BE VIGILANT

He said that although the virus is not highly transmissible from person to person, it has increased in global public health significance and can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes, and fever. 

The department said most people fully recover, but some get very sick.

HOW IS MPOX SPREAD?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said anyone can get mpox. It spreads from contact with infected:

  • persons, through touch, kissing, or sex
  • animals when hunting, skinning, or cooking them
  • materials, such as contaminated sheets, clothes or needles 
  • pregnant persons who may pass the virus on to their unborn baby. 

Here are the symptoms: 

Mpox causes signs and symptoms, which usually begin within a week but can start 1–21 days after exposure. Symptoms typically last 2–4 weeks but may last longer in someone with a weakened immune system.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS THAT YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING OUT FOR?

Common symptoms of mpox are:

  • rash
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • back pain
  • low energy
  • swollen lymph nodes. 

For some people, the first symptom of mpox is a rash, while others may have different symptoms first. 

The WHO said the rash begins as a flat sore, which develops into a blister filled with liquid and may be itchy or painful. As the rash heals, the lesions dry up, crust over and fall off. 

WHERE CAN SKIN LESIONS APPEAR?

Some people may have one or a few skin lesions, and others may have hundreds or more. These can appear  anywhere on the body, such as:

  • palms of hands and soles of feet
  • face, mouth and throat
  • groin and genital areas
  • anus.

Some people also have painful swelling of their rectum or pain and difficulty when peeing.

According to the WHO, people with mpox are infectious and can pass the disease on to others until all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed. 

Children, pregnant people and people with weak immune systems are at risk for complications from mpox.

Typically for mpox, fever, muscle aches and sore throat appear first. The mpox rash begins on the face and spreads over the body, extending to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and evolves over 2-4 weeks in stages – macules, papules, vesicles, pustules. Lesions dip in the centre before crusting over. 

“Scabs then fall off. Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) is a classic feature of mpox. Some people can be infected without developing any symptoms,” the WHO said. 

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