Durban - More and more people are being diagnosed with measles after an outbreak in four provinces, the National Department of Health (DOH) warned this week.
Most infections occurred in children aged between five and nine, but the DOH said generally the ages of those affected ranged from two months to 42 years.
Spokesman Foster Mohale said so far the outbreaks had been noted in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, and on Thursday alone 13 new cases were reported.
Currently there are 169 laboratory confirmed cases, most of them in Limpopo.
He warned that the viral infection which was usually associated with children could result in serious health complications.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a measles outbreak as three cases reported in a single district in one month,” said Mohale.
Typically patients with measles had a fever and a rash and this could also be accompanied by coughing, red eyes and a runny nose.
“Complications of measles include pneumonia, diarrhoea, dehydration, encephalitis, blindness and death,” Mohale warned.
He said measles complications were severe in malnourished children and those under the age of two.
However, anyone who had not been vaccinated against the virus could be infected and develop the disease.
Mohale said the measles vaccine was given routinely at six and 12 months of age, but it was never too late to be vaccinated.
The Mass Measles Immunisation Campaign, supported by the WHO, was scheduled to take place nationally from February 6 to 17, he said.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) warned that measles was more than a dangerous and potentially deadly disease, but also an indication that there were gaps in global immunisation coverage.
“It is encouraging that people in many communities are beginning to feel protected enough from Covid-19 to return to more social activities. But doing so in places where children are not receiving routine vaccination creates the perfect storm for the spread of a disease like measles,” said Unicef executive director Catherine Russell.
In 2020, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines through routine health services, the highest number since 2009 and 3.7 million more than in 2019, said Unicef and WHO.
The Independent on Saturday