Pretoria - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health is to vaccinate close to three million children against measles by the end of April.
The measles and polio mass immunization campaign targeting all children aged between six months and 15 years follows an increase in the number of measles cases.
The initial measles cases were first detected in September in the Umgungundlovu District and since then more cases were seen in other districts around October.
Last Tuesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed 567 cases in the province, putting the province second on the list after Gauteng which has 4 297 cases.
MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the first round of immunisations will take place from 22 February to 7 March 2010 and the second round from 12 to 25 April.
"To be effective, the campaign must reach 90 percent coverage within this short period. Special focus will be on high risk and hard to reach areas as well as the zero dose children and those children who have not been immunized," Dhlomo said.
He noted that the department wanted to ensure that populations most likely to be affected by measles such as underserved and malnourished children are reached.
The department has urged the community to ensure that all children aged between six months and 15 years are brought through to the immunization points during the mentioned period, irrespective of their social standing and/or immunization history.
The cause of the current outbreak is unknown and therefore every child in these age groups is considered at risk, warned Dhlomo.
Measles symptoms include runny nose, cough, red eyes, fever and rashes. Complications include encephalitis (brain infection), pneumonia (lung infection), ear infections and deafness.