Fears of measles outbreak – sporadic cases reported in Eastern Cape

DECEMBER 8, 2014

South Africa has recently recorded a surge in measles cases - the most serious of the common childhood viral illnesses, with the Northern Cape Province topping the list, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases warned on Monday.

"Over the past two months, there has been an increase in laboratory-confirmed (IgM positive) measles cases."

The five provinces affected are Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Sporadic laboratory-confirmed measles cases have also been noted in the Eastern Cape and Free State.

"No laboratory-confirmed measles cases have been reported from Limpopo and Northwest provinces during 2014 to date."

What is measles

Measles, also known as morbilli, English measles, or rubeola, is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system, immune system and skin caused by a virus. It is spread through respiration.

Symptoms usually develop 7–14 days (average 10–12) after exposure to an infected person and the initial symptoms usually include a high fever, Koplik's spots, malaise, loss of appetite, hacking cough. After this comes a spot-like rash that covers much of the body.

The course of measles, provided there are no complications, such as bacterial infections, usually lasts about 7–10 days.

First case

The Northern Cape Province reported five laboratory-confirmed measles cases. It was detected within a four-week period in Siyanda District Municipality, which borders both Namibia and Botswana.

"Of concern is that Namibia has recently reported an increase in measles cases from certain districts," the institute pointed out.

It added that the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Health initiated an outbreak investigation in Siyanda District, and is implementing public health responses to curb the outbreak.

These include intensifying surveillance for suspected measles cases, identifying and vaccinating measles-susceptible children, reducing morbidity and mortality by ensuring appropriate measles case management, and health promotion activities in the community.

What you can do

A suspected measles case should be reported to the Department of Health immediately.

Notification should occur based on a clinical suspicion of measles, and must not be delayed pending results of measles diagnostic tests.

This enables the Department of Health to timeously follow up all suspected measles cases and offer measles vaccination, the Institute said.

Photo: courtesy of pediatric-house-calls.djmed.net.