Measles outbreak in Ekurhuleni – get your child vaccinated

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Ekurhuleni Metro rolled out an emergency measles vaccination campaign at its primary care health facilities after incidents of measles outbreaks were reported.

Metro spokesperson, Themba Gadebe said children under the age of five will be vaccinated or receive a booster dose as part of the campaign.

“Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus or saliva and is a serious condition that can be fatal for small children. An infected person can easily release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze,” said Gadebe.

He advised parents to take their children to the nearest clinic for medical assistance if children show any signs such as high fever, coughing, a runny nose and red watery eyes.

There has been an ongoing debate on the pros and cons of measles vaccination and whether measles can be prevented through vaccination.

Concerned parents and anti-vaccine activists argue that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella causes autism and sometimes leads to death.

This has resulted in some parents refusing to vaccinate their children, allegedly resulting in measles outbreaks.

According to Dr Simon Strachan, a paediatrician at Life Bedford Gardens, there’s no doubt that the vaccine works.

Strachan also points out that it is unfounded that measles vaccination causes autism.

“There has absolutely not been any deaths related to vaccination. There is nothing in the vaccine that can lead to death,” he further added.

Strachan is the chairperson of the Paediatric Management Group, a member of the South African Paediatric Vaccine Action Group, an examiner for the Fellowship of the College of Paediatricians (FCPaed) College Exams, council member of the South African College of Paediatricians, associate member of the International Association of Immunisation Managers, ministerial appointment to The National Advisory Group on Immunisation and chairman of The National Vaccinators Forum.

“Vaccine will work in an individual when 95 per cent of people are vaccinated and the population is protected. There was an outbreak in an unvaccinated area, where a family did not want to get vaccinated. The whole community becomes at risk when some people are not vaccinated,” he points out.

Strachan said research had disproved any relationship between vaccines and autism.

In the late 1980s, while in training at Baragwanath Hospital, Strachan would watch children die from measles related deaths.

Shortly thereafter, vaccination became freely available to babies and children; this is when his passion for vaccination began.

“You get to deal with young babies who don’t have a choice. Parents have to make the choice on their behalf to prevent sickness and death.”

His advice to parents is not to question vaccination routines.

“When there is a campaign, your child needs a dose, even if they’ve already received the same dose. It’s for the greater public health so we can stop the spread.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10 to 12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth.

Several days later, a rash develops which starts on the face and upper neck and gradually spreads downwards.

Gadebe said, apart from the provision of clean water, vaccines are regarded as the second best thing discovered in public health.

“Vaccinations prevent the incidence and complications of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, polio and meningitis,” said Gadebe.

He said immunisations were available at all primary health care facilities in Ekurhuleni.

“Children are immunised according to the immunisation schedule as recorded in their Road to Health booklets.”

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Tumelo Mthethwa

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