Be wise, immunise your children

The City of Cape Town’s Health Department is encouraging parents to keep up with their children’s immunisation schedule and be alert to the symptoms of childhood diseases, especially measles. Following a cluster of measles cases in Gauteng, and a measles alert sent out by the National Institute of Communicable Disease, the Health Department would like to raise awareness about this serious disease.

‘Our aim is to have 95% of children immunised against measles as this would prevent outbreaks. This amount of coverage provides herd immunity. Currently we have between 75% and 85% measles second dose vaccination coverage in the metro.

‘Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, as about 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose,’ said Councillor Patricia van der Ross, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body.

‘Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children around the world, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Complications are more common in children under the age of five or adults over the age of 20. Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease,’ said Councillor van der Ross.

The most serious complications include blindness, severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling) and death. Complications are more serious in those who become infected with measles as young infants (under two years of age) and in children who are malnourished.

Signs and symptoms

• The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts four to seven days

• Other signs such as a cough, red and watery eyes, running nose and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage

• After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. The rash looks like small, red, flat spots over the body. The rash does not form blisters, nor is it itchy or painful

• Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days)

Who is at risk?

• Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death

• Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk

• Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected


• No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus

• Severe complications from measles can be avoided through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with oral rehydration solution to replace fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhoea or vomiting

• Paracetamol and tepid sponging is recommended for treatment of fever

• Antibiotics may be prescribed by the healthcare provider to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia


• Routine measles vaccination for children is a key public health strategy to reduce measles deaths

• The measles vaccine has been in use for over 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive

‘I want to encourage parents to ensure that they adhere to the immunisation schedule. It not only prevents severe illness, but saves lives and debilitating it in the future. Please approach our professional staff at your nearest clinic if you have any questions or concerns about having your child vaccinated,’ added Councillor van der Ross.

Source: City Of Cape Town