The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has warned measles cases could surge in South Africa as classrooms reopen.
The NICD confirmed that from epidemiological week 40 of 2022 to 01 of 2023, a total of 357 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported from five provinces with declared measles outbreaks in Limpopo (140 cases), Mpumalanga (75 cases), North West (114 cases), Gauteng (16 cases), and Free State (12 cases).
While the Western Cape has not yet declared an outbreak, residents are urged to remain vigilant and aware of the symptoms.
Symptoms of measles typically appear 7 to 14 days after contact and include a high fever, cough, and runny nose. The characteristic rash appears three to five days after the first symptoms but can be easily mistaken for the flu.
Measles can be diagnosed through a lab test, similar to a COVID-19 test.
The NICD reported that “the number of measles cases in the country continues to rise, however the number of specimens submitted in the last three weeks and the number of positive cases appear to be decreasing in comparison with previous weeks.”
However, it added, with schools opening vigilance and responsiveness are vital as cases in school or crèche environments are likely to rapidly increase.
Dr. Saadiq Kariem, CEO of the Western Cape Department of Health, also emphasised the high risk for all provinces in the country, especially as children return to school.
The department has heightened surveillance during this period but has not yet declared an outbreak in the Western Cape.
Dr. Kariem advised parents to be aware of these signs in their children, as well as in themselves as adults can transmit the virus to children.
He finally stressed the importance of measles vaccinations, whether clinically or laboratory tested.
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