Parents urged to immunize children against measles

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Health has urged parents to immunize their children after a number of measles cases were reported in the country.

"Parents are urged to bring their children for immunisation even if they have received all their measles vaccines. School children will be immunised at school and parents are asked to complete and return consent forms obtained from the schools," said the department.

Parents whose children are not in school should please take their children to the local clinic or health facility for immunisation

There are currently 131 cases of the highly infectious notifiable viral disease that have been confirmed through laboratory tests. Most of the cases were people between the ages of four months and 38-years of age, with the median age being 13.

There are 109 cases reported in Gauteng, 97 in Pretoria and sporadic cases in other provinces with three cases being confirmed in the Eastern Cape, eight in Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape confirmed one case and Western Cape confirmed five cases.

A number of cases are suspected to be from Limpopo.

Measles presents with high fever, a general feeling of unwellness, coughing, runny nose and teary eyes two to three days before a typical rash appears.

The department noted that although there is no rash at the onset of the fever and flu-like symptoms, the patient is highly contagious during this time before the rash appears.

A non-productive cough is usually present throughout the feverish period, persisting for one to two weeks in uncomplicated cases, often being the last symptom to disappear. Swelling of the glands commonly occurs in young children.

"Older children usually complain of sensitivity to light and joint pains. Small spots with white or bluish-white centres resembling "grains of salt sprinkled on a red background" may be seen on the insides of the cheeks in over 80 percent of cases before the onset of the rash.

"A blotchy red rash usually appears behind the ears and on the face within two to four days after the pre-rash feverish period, the rash peaks in two to three days and becomes most concentrated on the trunk and upper extremities," said the department.

The disease lasts for three to seven days and malnourished or vitamin-deficient children may develop severe skin exfoliation.

The department reminded medical practitioners that they should report any suspected measles cases to their nearest local authority. This is imperative to initiate swift outbreak response action by community health services.

Every case of suspected measles must have blood and urine tests done which are sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.

"Tests for suspected measles are done free of charge and all positive cases should receive at least two doses of Vitamin A, with a third dose administered patients with visual complications after two weeks," said the department.