South Africa has been put on high alert for a measles outbreak, with a number of cases reported from five provinces since the start of this year.
The South African Health Department has confirmed the prevalence of measles cases in five provinces – Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape. Measles is a highly contagious viral illness. It is spread by contact with fluids from an infected person’s nose, mouth, or throat. Sneezing and coughing can put contaminated bodily fluids into the air.
Health Ministry spokesperson Joe Maila said on Monday that about 49 laboratory confirmed measles cases had been noted since the beginning of this year compared to six for the whole of last year. The majority of cases being reported in the Northern Cape with 18 measles detected to date.
Maila said the department was working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to contain the virus and ensure that it was not spreading. ”Indeed there is a break-out of measles in South Africa. However, we are doing everything to make sure that we contain it so that it should not spread at the level that people are getting worried,” he added.
“Therefore we need to make sure that when parents see that there are a little bit of change about their children they must take them in for treatment so that we may be able to know what is going on. We are working closely with the NICD which is able to track what are the developments in the country and we believe that we have the situation under control.”
“Sporadic” laboratory confirmed cases were also noted in the Eastern Cape and the Free State.
The Northern Cape has been the hardest hit and the health department in that province has started an “outbreak investigation” in the Siyanda district.
The provincial breakdown was:
* Western Cape – 4.
* Eastern Cape – 2.
* Northern Cape – 17.
* Gauteng – 15.
* KwaZulu-Natal – 6.
* Free State – 2.
* Mpumalanga – 3.
According to the department, children should be taken to a health facility as soon as there is a suspected case of measles.
The most common symptoms include:
* A high temperature, sore eyes (conjunctivitis), and a runny nose usually occur first.
* Small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or so later.
* A harsh, dry cough.
* Going off food, tiredness, and aches and pains.
* Diarrhoea and/or vomiting.
A red blotchy rash normally develops about three to four days after the first symptoms. It usually starts on the head and neck, and spreads down the body. It takes two to three days to cover most of the body. The rash often turns a brownish colour and gradually fades over a few days.
Children are usually unwell and miserable for three to five days. After this, the fever tends to ease, and then the rash fades.
Older children and adults who were not fully immunised were also at risk. Provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said no cases had been reported in the province as yet but the department was putting teams together to keep an eye on the disease. ”We’re preparing ourselves activating Outbreak Response Teams throughout province, those in districts and in Bhisho but those will provide support & ensure availability. We’re aware that a number of Eastern Cape residents in other provinces will be coming here and we know measles may be imported in that way hence our preparedness to ensure we deal with any possibility,” said Kupelo.