The city of Johannesburg will start an emergency measles vaccination campaign to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease which is a leading cause of death among babies and teenagers.
The campaign will start on Monday May 15 and run until Friday June 30. This campaign follows a directive from the department of health after a reported increase in the number of confirmed measles cases in Gauteng.
Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said the department has detected at least 17 cases in Johannesburg, the Tshwane Metro and in Ekurhuleni.
Six other cases of measles were confirmed in Johannesburg, with Lenasia identified as a hot spot. The disease had since spread to other parts of Johannesburg in March.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said these cases were mostly primary schoolchildren, previously unvaccinated against measles.
The six-week immunisation drive will target children aged six months to 15 years in early childhood development (ECD) centres, public and privateschools, health facilities, as well as at pre-identified hot spots.
NICD spokesperson Nombuso Shabalala said all schools, crèches and health facilities country wide should be on the lookout for 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 the highest risk of complications from measles.
“Measles is preventable through vaccination which is safe and highly effective at preventing the spread of the disease. The vaccines are routinely given at six and 12 months of age in the public sector, and at 12 months (as part of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine) in the private sector. 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 when required,” Shabalala said.
The city’s health department appeals to parents to sign vaccination consent forms which will be given to children for parents to sign and return to schools or ECD centres.
Ramokgopa said they aim to vaccinate at least one million children and they set up immunization centres at public health facilities.
“A parental consent will be required for a child to be vaccinated in crèches and in our schools. We are working with our epidemiological and surveillance teams, support by the national department, to make sure that we trace all these cases. So we are able to contain all these contacts and the outbreak.”