Another four measles cases have been detected in the Greater Sekhukhune District in Limpopo, bringing the total number of cases to seven. Health authorities are now busy with contact tracing and screening for suspected cases..

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases(NICD) said that those infected range from nine months to 24 years old. One child was fully vaccinated.  The child had two measles doses in 2019.

More information on measles cases in Limpopo

“One child with measles was unvaccinated, and the vaccination status of the other five cases was unknown. One patient was admitted to the hospital while another contracted pneumonia due to complications,” the  NICD said in a media statement.

Measles is a viral infection that can cause serious illness in small children but is easily preventable by a vaccine. It is highly infectious and spreads rapidly from person to person of any age, especially those who are unvaccinated.

Warning signs of measles

Patients with measles present with fever and a rash. The rash looks like small, red, flat spots over the body. The rash does not form blisters, nor is it itchy or painful. Other signs include cough, conjunctivitis and coryza. Complications of measles can include diarrhoea, dehydration, brain infection, blindness, and death.

Greater Sekhukhune District and Limpopo Province Department of Health officials, said public health responses have started the support of other stakeholders, including NICD. 

“These activities include enhanced surveillance for measles, contact tracing, screening for suspected measles cases using the measles case surveillance case definition followed by a collection of blood, throat swabs for measles diagnostic testing, and medical record reviews in healthcare facilities to identify the missed case. While persons exposed to suspected or confirmed cases are being vaccinated to prevent the spread of measles,” reads the statement.

Decline in measles immunisation

According to NICD, measles immunisation coverage data for the Greater Sekhukhune district showed a decrease of 87% to 64% for measles dose 1 and 86% to 60% for measles dose 2 from 2017 to 2022. Which is below the 95% coverage needed to achieve herd immunity.

“A survey is being done to validate the vaccination data provided to the province, and to investigate factors that might be contributing to the measles outbreak. Community awareness and health promotion by healthcare workers are continuing in the district to inform the public about the spread of measles and interventions to prevent disease,” said the statement.

Limpopo health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana, said to increase immunity in the community and prevent further spread, a vaccination drive has started.

“Children from 6 months to 15 years are getting measles booster vaccine. For now the booster is being distributed only in Sekhukhune. We are encouraging parents whose children are unvaccinated to ensure that they do as part of the catch-up program,” said Shikwambana.

NICD has urged clinicians to be alert for measles cases, especially in Limpopo, as large measles outbreaks are occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, including in neighbouring countries.

“Clinicians and caregivers should check children’s road-to-health booklets to ensure measles vaccinations are up to date. Children get the measles vaccines at 6 and 12 months. It is never too late to vaccinate against measles,” added the NICD. – Health-e News.