The Western Cape province has been hit with an increase in laboratory-confirmed measles cases, with four cases being reported in the City of Cape Town from 24 January 2023 to 17 February 2023.
While investigations have been carried out, no epidemiological link could be established between the cases. This has led to concerns about a potential measles outbreak, as confirmed by the South African outbreak criteria based on the 2015 EPI Surveillance Manual.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through coughing and sneezing. It is one of the most infectious diseases known to man, with a single infected person potentially able to infect up to 18 others. Symptoms of the disease include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash that spreads all over the body.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Disease, clinicians and caregivers should check children’s Road-to-health booklets to ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date.
It is also recommended that all contacts of the confirmed measles cases be vaccinated against it, and that enhanced surveillance be conducted in healthcare facilities in the affected area to assess whether any additional cases have gone unreported.
The good news, according to the Western Cape department of health, is that the country has started its national supplementary immunisation campaign. This means that vaccination of the measles-confirmed contacts in day-care centres and schools might coincide with the campaign vaccination. This will help to prevent further spread of the virus.
Measles is a preventable disease, and vaccination remains the best way to protect against it. The measles vaccine is safe and effective, and it is recommended that all children receive two doses of the vaccine, the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at four to six years of age. Adults who are not vaccinated or have never had measles should also consider getting vaccinated.
The Western Cape department of health has urged the public to be vigilant and to seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms of measles. They also encourage people to take preventive measures such as washing hands frequently, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
It is crucial to remain aware of the signs and symptoms of measles and to take precautions to prevent its spread, the department says.