City raises measles alert as infection increases

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Johannesburg - The number of people infected with measles in the city has increased to 48 since the first few cases were detected at the beginning of September.

The city's health authorities rang the alarm on Tuesday calling for residents to be alert since all regions have now been affected by the disease.

The Provincial Health Department's Nkosinathi Nkabinde said between January and August, 11 cases of confirmed measles were reported in Johannesburg.

He said the outbreak was occurring among children and adults, especially teenagers. "Some of the persons affected had one or two doses of measles vaccine, meaning all persons are at risk of contracting measles," Nkabinde said.

Measles is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus. The disease can cause blindness, deafness, brain damage, pneumonia and even death. Nkabinde explained that any person with fever, rash and any of the one of the following symptoms running nose, red infected eyes or cough should be investigated for measles.

Measles vaccine offers protection from this serious illness. Although the first measles vaccination given at nine months protects infants, immunity acquired is not optimal due to the presence of maternal antibodies.

The second dose administered at 18 months of age, provides another chance to protect the children against measles, especially for those children who did not respond to the first dose of the vaccine.

Nkobinde appealed to all those suspecting cases of measles in the province to consult medical practitioners, adding that failure to control the spread of measles could result in unnecessary suffering and even death.

Parents who have younger children should also ensure that the children are fully immunized at a local clinic.

The department will respond by immunizing all identified contacts at home, school and at the workplace.