The ongoing measles outbreak has spread from Limpopo and Mpumalanga, into North West and Gauteng. This has led concerned parents to wonder about the infectious disease and how they can keep their children safe.
Busisiwe Boqwana (30), from Johannesburg, says the increase in the viral infection has parents like her worried. She is the mother of a three-year-old and her daughter was vaccinated when she was a baby.
She says, “Even through cases of Covid-19 have dropped, a disease like measles is a threat to my child. My daughter is vaccinated but I am still worried. The situation is scary.”
Last week, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), reported that cases had ballooned in Limpopo and stood at 137 cases.
Another parent, *Karabo (28), who asked to remain anonymous over fear of criticism, says that he would not vaccinate his children despite the rising numbers.
The Joburg father of two says, “Why should people be forced to vaccinate their kids if they don’t want to? I have weighed the pros and cons and made an informed decision and I am satisfied with that.”
How measles is spread
Any outbreak of measles is always of great concern, Tygerberg Academic Hospital infectious diseases physician, Dr Jantjie Taljaard, tells Health For Mzansi.
Taljaard explains that measles is a viral infection caused by the measles virus (aka Morbillivirus) and classically present with red eyes, cough and a runny nose followed by the classic skin rash 14 days after being exposed to a person with measles.
People can spread the virus from four days before the onset of the rash to four days afterwards, Taljaard adds.
“There is no specific antiviral treatment, but treatment with vitamin A and paracetamol is effective in relieving symptoms and preventing some complications. The causes of death due to measles is usually pneumonia (lung infection) or encephalitis (brain infection).”
Dangers of zero vaccination
While measles can be mild, severe complications do occur such as blindness, and lung and brain infection. This is according to Dr Samantha Potgieter from the University of the Free State.
Potgieter is an infectious disease expert at the Universitas Academic Hospital and an affiliated lecturer in the department of internal medicine at the UFS.
She tells Health For Mzansi that there is no protecting children from measles if they are unvaccinated.
“Measles is such a highly contagious airborne infection, there is no other way to safely protect children. This is why all children should be vaccinated. It is never too late to get a measles vaccine for your child if they did not get it as a baby.”
Globally every year, about 140 000 people die of measles. Most of these are children under the age of five she adds.
“The measles vaccine is extremely effective in preventing measles. Two doses of the measles vaccine are given to babies. An extremely small percentage may not respond, but 99% of people will develop long-lasting protective immunity.”
The vaccine protects the individual and prevents outbreaks as those vaccinated can’t contract the disease and cannot infect others, adds Taljaard.
“If your children were not vaccinated as babies, it is never too late to be vaccinated. Remember, to be vaccinated does not only protect you but also protects other, perhaps more vulnerable people that come into contact with you,” he says.
“If unvaccinated as an adult, one can develop more severe disease and pregnant women can transmit the infection to their unborn or new-born child,” he warns.
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