Outbreak of measles cases in Tshwane

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Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for calm and vigilance. Photo: Melinda Stuurman
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for calm and vigilance. Photo: Melinda Stuurman

NEWS


The national health department reported on Monday that the City of Tshwane was experiencing an outbreak of measles.

This came after four cases of measles were detected in the province over the last two weeks.

The department’s spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said three of these cases were from individuals residing in Tshwane and the fourth case was from an individual in the West Rand. Mohale said:

All four individuals are presently isolated and are recovering.

“The four people who were diagnosed with measles had been notified and ultimately confirmed through laboratory testing conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“Health authorities in the affected districts and communities are working together to identify and conduct vaccination of contacts.”

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for calm and vigilance.

“The cases of measles in the province were detected during routine surveillance activities aimed at detecting, investigating and responding to every suspected case of this vaccine-preventable disease.”

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Phaahla urged parents and caregivers to ensure that their children were up to date with their vaccinations in line with the vaccination schedule against measles and other childhood diseases.

“Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, which mainly spreads through infectious airborne respiratory droplets from infected persons when coughing or sneezing.

“However, the measles vaccine has been in use for almost 60 years and is the best protection against this life-threatening childhood disease.” Phaahla explained:

It is safe, effective and available free of charge at public health facilities.

Once detected, a person with measles has to quarantine for five days to avoid infecting others.

Phaahla said measles symptoms include fever, red eyes, runny nose and a cough, which typically appear before the onset of the disease’s characteristic rash.

“Children, especially those under a year, may develop complicated measles, which may include pneumonia, eye complications and, rarely, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Unvaccinated young children are at the highest risk of measles and its complications, including irreversible brain damage or death, especially in immunocompromised or malnourished children.”

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He said the health officials were working closely with the department, the City of Tshwane, the NICD and other stakeholders, such as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, to investigate and respond to the outbreak.

“The response includes increased surveillance and vigilance throughout the province.”

According to the SA Expanded Programme on Immunisation, children aged six months and one year are given the measles vaccine. These vaccines are available free of charge at public health facilities.

Measles is a notifiable medical condition in terms of the National Health Act, and clinicians have been alerted on the symptoms to look out for.


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