South Africa has reported its first death linked to monkeypox, an infectious disease transmitted through skin contact, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced on Wednesday.

“This death occurred at Thembisa Hospital, northeast of Johannesburg, as the severity of the symptoms prevented the patient from taking the necessary treatment,” Phaahla stated during a press conference on the epidemiological situation related to this infectious disease.

Monkeypox, also known as simian pox, is a rare viral disease in humans caused by the MPXV virus. While it is not highly transmissible, it can cause a painful rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.

Emphasizing that five cases have been confirmed so far in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, Phaahla noted that health authorities have implemented special measures to limit the spread of the disease.

“With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), the department is also considering acquiring a vaccine developed to combat the virus,” he added.

Phaahla reminded that individuals with weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions are at greater risk of severe complications.

Jacqueline Weyer, head of emerging zoonotic and parasitic diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), highlighted that the virus spreads through skin contact and cannot be transmitted in the same way as the flu via aerosols.

Noting that the identified patients have no travel history, she explained that the virus responsible for the disease “Mpox” can spread from animals.

Furthermore, Weyer stressed the need to combat any stigma associated with the infection to ensure that health workers can effectively trace the extent of the spread.