In a bid to contain the outbreak of measles in Mzansi, the Western Cape department of health will make additional booster doses of the measles vaccine available to children under the age of 15. These additional measles boosters will ensure healthy and thriving children.
The country recorded almost 500 cases of the highly contagious disease at the end of January.
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), along with the department of health, first confirmed a measles outbreak after approximately 200 cases were recorded in the country in December.
All parents take caution
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that during the Covid-19 pandemic, immunisation protocols for measles were halted on a global scale. This caused a perfect storm of conditions for measles outbreaks in many other countries.
Parents of children under 15 who are not in crèches, day-care centres or public schools, are urged to take their child to their closest clinic. For children in crèches, day-care centres or public schools, the Western Cape department of health said that it will be visiting them through the integrated school vaccination programme to offer convenient and safe vaccinations.
Parents will need to sign an informed consent form, sent by the education facility, giving permission for their child to receive the vaccination.
We appeal to parents and caregivers to make wise choices and vaccinate their eligible children against measles. “Let us leave no child behind and ensure they grow up healthy,” says Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape minister of health and wellness.
Children under threat
Western Cape nurse Elanza Williams is the operational manager at Wellington Community Day Centre in the Cape Winelands. She is urging parents to support the measles vaccination campaign by adhering to their children’s immunisation schedule and being aware of the signs of the infectious disease.
“You have the power to protect your child against measles: vaccinate and eradicate!” says Williams.
Young children are more susceptible to severe effects including pneumonia or brain swelling because of measles.
Even though a safe and effective vaccination is available, measles remains one of the major causes of mortality among young children.
Vaccinate to secure a bright future
According to Sonia Botha, the coordinator of the expanded programme on immunisation (EPI), too many children under five years of age have been left without protection against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has seen the risk of large outbreaks increasing in the country.
Now more than ever, ensuring that children are up to date with their routine immunisations will help limit the risk of measles for them and others, she adds.
To be protected against measles, two doses of the measles vaccine are required.
Signs, symptoms, and risks
Fever is one of the first symptoms of measles, particularly if it lasts longer than a week. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Running noses;
- Watery eyes;
- Little white patches on the cheeks;
- A rash on the face or upper neck is another telling symptom. The rash spreads over three days, finally reaching the hands and feet. The rash appears for five to six days before fading.
Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk, as is any immune-impaired person, who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity.
Treatment and prevention
The measles vaccine has been in use for over 50 years. It is safe, effective, and inexpensive. There is currently no cure for measles. However, paracetamol and warm water sponging are advised for relief from fever and pain.
Routine measles vaccination for children is a key public health strategy to reduce measles deaths.
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