NW Health on high alert after 7 measles cases

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rustenburg - Hospitals in the North West have been placed on high alert after the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) confirmed seven cases of measles in the province.

The North West Department of Health and Social Development took the decision to place its facilities on high alert after seven cases were confirmed in Rustenburg, Madibeng, Potchefstroom and Kgetleng.

The patients are aged between six months to 37 years.

The department's Communicable Disease Directorate is tracing the patient's contacts in a bid to contain the outbreak.

It has already embarked on a measles immunisation educational drive, targeted at all public, private, primary and secondary schools, crSches, churches and all major entry points in the province.

Departmental spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, urged parents and caregivers to ensure children have received all their necessary vaccines by checking their Road to Health or immunisation cards.

"If unsure, have these checked at the local clinic," Lekgethwane said, adding that measles immunisations were available free of charge from all public facilities.

Nationally, 468 measles cases have been confirmed by the NICD.

Gauteng is the worst affected province with 422 cases, followed by 13 cases in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape has eight confirmed cases, while the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State have four confirmed cases. There is one confirmed case in the Northern Cape.

Measles is one of the most dangerous diseases of childhood and accounts for nearly 777 000 deaths worldwide, with 452 000 cases coming from Africa.

It is a highly infectious disease that causes high fever, fine red rash, cold or flu-like symptoms including cough, runny nose and watery red eyes.

The disease can have complications, including pneumonia, infection of the middle ear which can cause deafness, ulceration of the eyes which can cause blindness, malnutrition and brain damage and even death.

One positive case of measles may quickly spread to up to 17 unprotected or unimmunised cases in a short period of time.