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Monkeypox scare grips Maseru following school trip


Lehlohonolo Motšoari

The District Administrator (DA) of Maseru, Tšepo Lethobane, has moved swiftly to address fears of a potential Monkeypox outbreak after reports surfaced of symptoms among students returning from a school trip to Durban, South Africa.

South African media outlets recently highlighted cases of Monkeypox infections in hospitals around Durban, raising alarm bells in neighbouring Lesotho.

Principal ‘Masenate Molapo of New Millennium High School confirmed that upon return from Durban, several students exhibited symptoms including headaches, high temperatures, and sore throats.

“The DA called me and said I should keep in touch with the students when they came back home. He asked to instruct all the students not to cross the border into Lesotho without being tested and I did that. I have also been told that not only students were tested but everyone who was crossing the border into Lesotho,” Molapo told Newsday.

During a press conference this week, Lethobane emphasised the proactive measures that were taken upon receiving reports from the Durban trip. “We immediately screened all 175 students at the border. 43 students showed suspicious signs and symptoms and were referred to Maseru District Hospital for extensive testing,” he said.

He said 22 students tested negative for Monkeypox but the tests confirmed that one student had contracted COVID-19.

Lethobane reassured the public that thorough follow-ups were being conducted with the remaining students to monitor their health closely.

He indicated that they had scheduled an appointment with the school for the students to appear along with their parents.

In response, Principal Molapo declined that there was any further collaboration with the DA office, stating: “The information I have heard originates from social media. I am unaware of any developments on the matter, as not a single parent has reported this issue.”

Meanwhile, Lethobane urged the public to remain vigilant, noting that the signs and symptoms of Monkeypox resemble those of flu, including fever, headache, and a distinctive rash that typically starts on the face and spreads to other areas such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

He said the rash progresses from macules to papules, vesicles, pustules, and eventually scabs.

He emphasised that Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through close contact and cautioned against the spread through same-gender sexual intercourse.

Morena Malefane Thamae, the District Surveillance Officer, also disclosed that they convened earlier in the week to conduct additional tests on the remaining students, with permission from the school. “Two more students tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to three. We are currently awaiting PCR results, which detect genetic material from specific organisms such as viruses,” Thamae said.

Lethobane further advised the public to maintain protective measures against COVID-19, underscoring its ongoing threat in the country.

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