Measles outbreak hits province

Sister Bongiwe Tyaliti administers a measles vaccination at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele. Vaccination drives are under way in all districts of the province to contain the spread of measles.

City health authorities are calling for children to be vaccinated against measles following an outbreak of the disease in the province.

The Western Cape is the sixth province to declare an outbreak, following Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.

According to World Health Organization international health regulations, an outbreak is defined as the presence of three or more confirmed measles cases within one month in a health facility, district, or sub-district.

The province had four laboratory-confirmed measles cases from Tuesday January 24 to Friday February 17, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Vaccination drives are under way in all districts of the province to contain the spread of measles. Children under the age of 15 are eligible for vaccinations and have been urged to get their jabs.

To date, 168 056 vaccines have been given in the province since February 6, according to the provincial health department.

City health department staff are visiting public schools and crèches to drop off pamphlets and consent forms.

Last Thursday and Friday, the provincial health department administered 1900 vaccinations at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele.

Parents or legal guardians must consent before a child can be given a vaccination.

Provincial health department spokeswoman Natalie Watlington said most children had few side effects from the vaccine, although some could experience a runny nose, a slight rash, a fever and redness or swelling at the injection site for a day or two.

“If these symptoms persist for longer than two or three days, or if your child is experiencing any severe discomfort as a result of the immunisation, please visit the nearest clinic or GP,” she said.

“In the event that your child is at school and has symptoms of measles, they will still be immunised. However, if a child has a pre-existing fever over 37.5 degrees, we will not immunise them.”

Ukhanyo Primary School principal Michael Tyhali thanked parents who had given their consent for the vaccinations.

If a child is absent on vaccination day, parents or caregivers can take the child to their nearest clinic for the vaccine, which is free at all City clinics.