Travellers urged to be on the lookout for Monkeypox

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Limpho Sello

FOLLOWING the breakout of the Monkeypox disease in some parts of the world last month, the Ministry of Health has called on travellers to report any illnesses during their travels and upon their return to Lesotho.

In a press statement this week, the Ministry’s public relations manager, ‘Mamolise Falatsa, said travellers are also required to provide any information about their recent travels and immunisation history.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported an outbreak of Monkeypox in humans in some parts of the world including Europe, Canada and United States of America earlier this month.  Symptoms of Monkeypox include fever, intense headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle ache, and a rash that blisters and crusts. The rash tends to be concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

According to the WHO, Monkeypox is not a new disease as it is endemic in some parts of West Africa and Central African countries.

Ms Falatsa said although Lesotho is not populated with wild animals such as monkeys, the Ministry believes the disease might reach the country through travellers, hence the appeal for them to be screened and to report any illnesses.

“Basotho travel a lot outside the country, sometimes through our porous borders. We are still fortunate because the disease has not reached Southern Africa yet,” Ms Falatsa said.

“If that was the case, we would then say we are at risk of importing the disease faster. There are reports of people who have died from Monkeypox across the world although the numbers are not as alarming as compared to Covid-19,” she added.

She said her ministry would soon release an update on the country’s preparedness and response strategies to the disease.

She said that the ministry’s Health National Rapid Response Team (NRRT) recently convened to develop preparedness plans to respond effectively should the disease be detected in the country.

“The NRRT has held two meetings so far to look into the issue. Firstly, we had to access the risks, which we have completed, and are now left with planning our preparedness,” she said.

According to WHO, Monkeypox does not present its symptoms immediately. It has an incubation period of two weeks.

It is therefore advisable that within the two weeks, travellers should monitor themselves for any signs and report to health centres should they suspect anything, Ms Falatsa said.

She explained that Monkeypox can be severe but a person can heal naturally as long as their immune system is not compromised.

“We cannot sit and boldly say that the disease is not dangerous. We have people with more than one disease (comorbidities) who need to take care of themselves more.

“The mouth, genitals and eyes may be affected. The symptoms and skin rash generally last for several weeks and during this time a person can infect others. The disease can be severe or fatal, particularly in children,” Ms Falatsa said.

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