16 March 2017

South Africa: Six Cases of Measles Confirmed in Joburg

Pretoria — The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed six cases of measles in Johannesburg, as at 15 March 2017.

The cases were mostly among primary school children, previously unvaccinated against measles.

"Additionally, there has been one confirmed case of measles in Rustenburg, North West province. These cases follow a confirmed outbreak of measles in the Western Cape in the first few months of this year, currently totalling 29 cases.

"The Western Cape outbreak initially involved teenagers at a boarding school in the Cape Winelands district. There have subsequently been cases in the Stellenbosch and Drakenstein sub-districts of the Cape Winelands, as well as Cape Metro district (Eastern, Northern and Southern sub-districts). Western Cape cases were mostly teenagers and young adults," the NICD said on Thursday.

The institution said vigorous vaccination campaigns have been conducted by the provincial Departments of Health in response to the affected schools, institutions and areas.

"The Western Cape Department of Health has vaccinated more than 270 000 children since February. Children up to the age of 15 years were vaccinated in the affected sub-districts and up to five years of age in the rest of the province.

"In Gauteng, [children in] the affected school have been vaccinated and plans are underway for a province-wide vaccination campaign targeting children less than five years, with inclusion up to 15 years for the affected sub-districts."

The NICD also urged all schools, crèches and health facilities countrywide to be on the lookout for measles.

Measles symptoms

Measles symptoms include fever, rash, cough, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and coryza (flu-like illness).

Measles is highly infectious and spreads rapidly from person to person. People with measles can spread the disease from four days before the rash until four days after the rash onset.

Complications can include diarrhoea, dehydration, brain infection (encephalitis), lung infection (pneumonia) or death. Anyone of any age can catch measles. Young children under two years of age are at highest risk of complications from measles.

Measles is preventable through vaccination, which is safe and highly effective at preventing the spread of measles.

The vaccines are routinely given at six and 12 months of age in the public sector, and at 12 months of age (as part of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine) in the private sector.

It's never too late to vaccinate

If vaccine doses have been missed, it is never too late to vaccinate against measles. Even if all vaccinations are up to date, measles vaccine boosters can be given at any age.

The NICD urged anyone who is concerned they may have measles to visit their doctor or nurse and ensure they have a blood test for measles.

"Without a blood test, measles cannot be differentiated from other rash illnesses, such as German measles."

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