A mother holds her daughter still while she receives a measles vaccination during an 11-day national measles and polio vaccination campaign at a clinic in Benoni. Picture: Jennifer Bruce

Johannesburg – The City of Joburg has called on parents to vaccinate their children following a measles alert issued by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Member of the mayoral committee for Health and Social Development Dr Mpho Phalatse said the communicable illnesses outbreak response teams in the city are on high alert for any cases of measles.

The NICD, a division of the National Health Laboratories Service (NHLS), issued the health alert in late January following a measles outbreak in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

“As of this week, the city has noted nine cases of confirmed measles in Region G (the deep south of the city). Parents and caregivers are urged to ensure that they are up-to-date with their children's vaccinations as per the immunisation schedule," said Phalatse.

"If you are unsure, visit your nearest primary health care facility immediately,” added Phalatse.

She stressed that parents and community members can help by ensuring all children are immunised against measles at the correct ages.

“Any child who is suspected to be suffering from measles should be taken to the nearest health facility for examination and investigation,” she said.

The city has ensured that all nine reported cases were vaccinated against measles including all persons under 15 years old within the affected communities. This has been done so as to contain any possible further spread of the illness.

In Gauteng, measles surveillance and a follow-up of suspected measles cases in primary health care facilities, hospitals and ports of entry are ongoing.

“Those at the highest risk of contracting measles, which can be fatal, are unvaccinated young children, pregnant women and any non-immune person who hasn't been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity,” Phalatse explained.

Measles is an airborne respiratory infection caused by the rubeola virus. Although it usually affects children, it can also infect adolescents and adults.

Symptoms include a body rash, fever, loss of appetite, coughing and conjunctivitis, otherwise known as red eyes and a runny nose.

Measles has an incubation period of between 10 and 14 days, often longer in adults than in children.

The city reiterated that the measles vaccine, which is available at all its 81 clinics and health facilities, is administered when a child is six months old and a booster administered at 12 months.

According to the World Health Organisation’s situational report released on March 2, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

“During 2000-2015, measles vaccinations prevented 20.3million deaths worldwide,” the MMC concluded.

The Star