Current Measles Situation in the Western Cape | Western Cape Government


Current Measles Situation in the Western Cape

24 February 2010

The countrywide spread of measles has now been officially declared an outbreak in the Western Cape. As at 22 February 2010, 422 confirmed measles cases were reported in the Western Cape, with an additional number of serologically unconfirmed cases.

As a result of the increase in the number of confirmed cases, children's health services across the Metropole are operating under significant pressure. The Western Cape Provincial Department of Health has implemented an action plan, which is led by a Joint Operations Committee (JOC) that includes clinicians, managers of both Tertiary and Secondary health services as well as the City of Cape Town's health services.

The JOC, headed by a Senior Executive member of the Department's management team will monitor the current situation to limit further spread. The Department has adopted a targeted approach focussing on the hot spot areas. These areas are the Eastern sub-district, Khayelitsha, Klipfontein, Mitchells Plain, Drakenstein area, Northern -, Southern -, Western -and the Tygerberg sub-district. The Department has also instituted a targeted immunisation plan to limit the further spread of measles.

An isolation ward to accommodate children requiring hospitalisation for more complicated measles has been established and opened at New Somerset Hospital and another isolation ward is planned to be opened on Friday 26 February 2010 at Tygerberg Hospital.

The Department has also brought forward the Immunisation Campaign to allow for a focused vaccination campaign targeting thes hotspots areas.

Every child, presenting at a public health facility, will be routinely immunised. Parents and care givers are urged not to take their children directly to one of the Central Hospitals, such as Groote Schuur, Red Cross and Tygerberg Hospitals, as vaccination and the initial clinical assessment can be done effectively at their nearest primary health care centre. This will also prevent an unnecessary overload of these hospitals, which will then handle more complicated cases.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said throughout the Western Cape, but especially in the outbreak areas, doctors and nurses are ready. "It is exactly for this reason that the Western Cape initiated the targeted immunisation campaign rather than waiting on the National Immunisation campaign in April. We are ready to manage this measles outbreak."

"It is subsequent to pressure from this provincial government that the National Department of Health agreed to make the measles vaccine available to the Western Cape Department of Health so that we are now in a position to roll out the accelerated measles immunisation campaign now while also participating in the national mass immunisation campaign scheduled for April 2010."

Minister Botha called on parents of young children to watch their children for the symptoms that include fever, loss of appetite, watery eyes and a runny nose followed by a blotchy red rash. "Please take your children to your nearest clinic for assessment and treatment."

Some facts on measles:

  • Measles is a highly contagious disease usually seen in children, which can affect older children and adults as well.
  • The incubation period is 10 - 14 days, often longer in adults.
  • It is characterised by malaise, fever, loss of appetite, red watery eyes, cough and runny nose.
  • The rash of measles usually appears 3 - 5 days after the above symptoms. It begins on the face and spreads down over the body.
  • The duration of the illness is 7 - 10 days.
  • Measles is spread by droplets from respiratory secretions. It is transmitted by breathing, coughing or sneezing.
  • The most infectious phase is at the peak of the coughing and runny nose.

Measles vaccine is part of the routine vaccination schedule. Parents who are unsure if their children under the age of five have received the recommended measles vaccines should take their child to the nearest clinic for catch-up doses.

Measles is a preventable disease, and Department urges residents to be aware of the symptoms and to ensure that their children's immunisations are up to date

For more information, people can phone the Western Cape Communicable Disease Control Office, tel: 021 483 3156.

Issued by the Directorate: Communications for the Western Cape Department of Health.

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