Over 120 000 immunised in measles campaign

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pretoria - The Gauteng Health Department has immunised 123 232 people since the launch of its measles immunisation campaign last Monday.

The campaign, which targets children from the ages of six months up to both primary and high school ages, was initiated after a number of measles cases were reported in the country earlier this year.

The national Department of Health last week confirmed that four people had died since the outbreak and at least 940 cases of measles have been reported in the country.

Gauteng had the highest number with 91 percent of the total confirmed cases, while other provinces had significantly smaller numbers.

Tomorrow, Gauteng Health and Social Development MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, will take part in the immunisation campaign at the Boipakiso Primary School in Soweto and the Leicester Primary School in Kensington.

The department has called on everyone aged between nine months and 20 years to be immunised against measles, adding that even if they were immunised previously against the deadly disease - children must take the jab again.

While vaccines do not expire in the human body, the department is taking the precautionary measure of vaccinating those most at risk again.

World Health Organization (WHO) representative in South Africa, Stella Anyangwe, says infections have increased because many people were not immunised against the potentially fatal disease.

Measles spreads easily from person to person, through either coughing or sneezing. Its symptoms include a runny nose, red infected eyes, fever and a distinctive rash.

Complications include encephalitis, brain damage, pneumonia, blindness, ear infections and deafness. The disease can be fatal.

Both the department and the WHO have urged members of the public who experience these signs and symptoms to visit their nearest health facility immediately, for free tests and treatment.

Each year, the national government dedicates R80 million to vaccination measures for all children under the age of 12