Tygerberg Hospital Extends Measles Isolation Ward as Numbers Climb | Western Cape Government


Tygerberg Hospital Extends Measles Isolation Ward as Numbers Climb

28 March 2010

With the measles death rate in the Province having risen to thirteen (13) in total, nurses and health care workers at health facilities throughout the Western Cape are gearing towards the mass immunisation campaign, scheduled to commence in April that will immunise 1 million people. In the Western Cape, as from tomorrow (30 March), the measles isolation ward at Tygerberg Hospital has been extended to accommodate 18 more beds.

Western Cape Health Minister, Theuns Botha says there has been significant pressure on hospital beds, with both the isolation wards at Tygerberg and Somerset Hospitals full.

In the Western Cape to date there have been thirteen (13) measles-related deaths. The majority of these deaths occurred in babies. One victim was an adult of thirty one (31) years.

Simultaneously Western Cape Head of Health, Professor Craig Househam, has commented that the measles deaths in the Province thus far have been as a result of underlying complications, meaning that those patients immunity were already compromised by a serious illness, such as HIV, pneumonia or diarrhea.

Professor Househam said that if widespread measles immunisation had been commenced late last year, much of the consequences of the current measles outbreak could have been avoided.

Minister Botha said there was reluctance on the part of the National Department of Health to fast track the national mass immunisation campaign. "That is why this province brought the process forward and immunised all children that presented to our facilities in the break-out areas."

During the targeted immunisation campaign in the Cape Metro, which targeted "hotspot" or outbreak response areas, approximately forty five thousand (45 000) children were immunised. This is in preparation for the national mass immunisation campaign that will start during April and continue through till May.

The number of proven measles cases in the Western Cape continues to climb. The laboratory confirmed cases stand at one thousand one hundred and fifty one (1151). It must be noted that the actual number of measles-cases can be higher, because it is a clinical diagnosis and laboratory confirmation is not always sought.

Minister Botha comments, "We hope that the targeted immunisation and the national mass campaign will finally result in a significant reduction of the number of measles cases presenting to our health facilities. The immunisation will not necessarily reduce the numbers, but will definitely assist to strengthen population immunity."

In the Western Cape, in preparation for the mass immunisation campaign, scheduled to commence on Monday, 12 April 2010, which also entails immunising all learners up to 15 years of age. Parents have been sent letters to sign indicating their consent. Thus far the focus has been on babies and toddlers, being in the high risk category.

Facts about measles

  • The epidemic is affecting people from 0 to 39 of age and some isolated incidences of people older.
  • Measles is a preventable disease, and parents are encouraged to ensure that their children's vaccinations are up to date.
  • All children should routinely receive a measles vaccination at 9 months as well as a booster injection at 18 months.
  • Parents, who are unsure whether their children younger than 5 years old have received the recommended measles vaccines, should take their child to the nearest clinic for catch-up doses.
  • 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.

Statement by:
Theuns Botha
Western Cape Minister for Health

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