Department embarks on measles campaign

THE Department of Health has embarked on a campaign to respond to the measles outbreak as the number of cases reported across the country escalates.

There are already 695 confirmed cases since March. Gauteng remains the hardest hit, accounting for 628 of those cases.

The ages of those affected range from four months to 56 years, with an average age of 12.

National Health Department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said: "Apart from daily contact with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), primary and tertiary school children in Gauteng received additional vaccines between August 17 and 28.

"The Department of Health appeals to parents to sign the measles vaccine consent forms since it is against policy to vaccinate without consent.

The experience so far has been that parents do not sign the forms, making it difficult for healthcare workers to vaccinate, Hadebe said.

Measles is the most serious of the common childhood viral illnesses. Infants younger than one year, malnourished children and immunocompromised children are at risk for fatal measles.

There is an effective vaccine against measles that can be given from nine months of age. Symptoms include runny nose, a cough, conjunctivitis and a high fever leading up to the appearance of a skin rash.

Hadebe said: "As in all situations of outbreak, the department works closely with provincial health departments and districts, the NICD and the WHO as part of its response."

"The situation, even in provinces least affected, is being closely monitored and members of the public are advised to consult a healthcare worker if they suspect measles," he said.