Mitchell’s Plain nurses are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against measles following an outbreak of the disease in the province.
The Western Cape is the sixth province to declare an outbreak, following Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.
According to World Health Organization international health regulations, an outbreak is defined as the presence of three or more confirmed measles cases within one month in a health facility, district, or sub-district.
The province had four laboratory-confirmed measles cases from Tuesday January 24 to Friday February 17, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Vaccination drives are under way in all districts of the province to contain the spread of measles.
Nurses are visiting creches and schools to vaccinate all eligible children aged from 6 months to 15 whose parents have given consent.
Vaccination remains the best defence against the current outbreak, according to provincial health department spokeswoman Monique Johnstone
Sister Valerie Kruger, the school health nurse at the Mitchell’s Plain day hospital, urged parents not to delay vaccinations.
“We need to protect our little ones by ensuring that their vaccinations are up to date. Our teams are visiting schools and creches in Mitchell’s Plain to get as many children immunised against the measles virus. If your child is at home, then I encourage you to visit your nearest clinic to make sure your child gets their measles vaccination.”
Shelter Murienza heard public announcements about the measles outbreak over a loud hailer in Mandalay and took her 3-year-old son, Harrell, and 11-month-old twins, Haley and Haniel, to get vaccines at one of the preschools in the area.
“This measles vaccination is for my children’s safety. I want to encourage all parents to take their children’s health seriously. If you have any concerns, speak to a nurse. We need to take responsibility to ensure our children are protected against measles,” she said.
As of Wednesday February 22, a total of 207 191 vaccines had been given across the province, which is 12% of the 1 727 392 children under the age of 15 who need to be vaccinated as part of the ongoing campaign by Friday March 31, according to provincial health department.
“We applaud our various vaccination teams for their efforts to ensure that our children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. The contributions of the private sector, with its 9 601 measles vaccines administered to date as part of the campaign, are also appreciated,” said Sonia Botha, the coordinator of the provincial health department’s expanded programme on immunisation.
“Those parents and caregivers wanting to vaccinate their children may visit a pharmacy, clinic, or private healthcare provider. We also thank the many parents who have supported our campaign since the beginning of the month. Those who still need to vaccinate their children against measles are urged to do so without delay at their nearest clinic,” said Ms Botha.
Provincial health department spokeswoman Natalie Watlington said most children had few side effects from the vaccine, although some could experience a runny nose, a slight rash, a fever and redness or swelling at the injection site for a day or two.
“If these symptoms persist for longer than two or three days, or if your child is experiencing any severe discomfort as a result of the immunisation, please visit the nearest clinic or GP,” she said.
“In the event that your child is at school and has symptoms of measles, they will still be immunised. However, if a child has a pre-existing fever over 37.5 degrees, we will not immunise them.”