Parents urged to vaccinate children

Eddie Andrews, the mini mayor for Area South, speaks to parents about the importance of vaccination.

The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Education Department are running a measles vaccination campaign after an outbreak of the illness in the Stellenbosch area last month.

The campaign gives an extra measles injection to all children from six months to those just shy of their fifth birthday.

The measles campaign has been extended for a further two weeks until Friday March 24.

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus and spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing as well as contact with saliva or nasal secretions.

It affects mostly infants. Infection can lead to death. Measles can only be contracted once, but there are other viral diseases that present very similar signs and symptoms, which is why the measles diagnosis needs to be confirmed through blood tests.

Early symptoms include a skin rash, fever, conjunctivitis, a cough and a runny nose. Two or three days later, small white spots, known as Koplik’s spots, may appear inside the mouth. After exposure to a case, it takes 10 – 12 days to become ill.

The person becomes infectious about four days before the rash appears and remains infectious for another four days after. While the symptoms are the same for children and adults, children under five have the highest rate of subsequent complications, which include diarrhoea, respiratory diseases such as viral or bacterial bronchopneumonia, encephalitis, and even blindness.

A measles infection frequently leads to malnutrition and weakening of the immune system, resulting in increased mortality for all causes for two to three years after the initial measles infection.