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Compiled by Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Measles outbreak update: Most cases still recorded in Limpopo

According to the latest NICD data on the measles outbreak in SA, most cases appear to still be concentrated in Limpopo.

Since a measles outbreak was declared in Limpopo in October 2022, the National Health Department has declared outbreaks in all provinces, except the Eastern Cape.

Limpopo latest: Eight new measles cases

According to the latest data (which show laboratory-confirmed cases up until 3 June 2023), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported that eight new cases have been confirmed in Limpopo, with a sporadic case in Gauteng.

In the week ending on 25 May 2023, a total of 28 laboratory-confirmed measles cases were detected across the country, of which 22 cases were from Limpopo.

The NICD stressed that the Limpopo province continues to contribute a significant number of cases, primarily among children aged five to nine.

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Vaccination is key to the prevention and control of measles outbreaks. Photo: Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

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Measles in South Africa

As per the latest situation report dated 9 June, the NICD tested  6264  serum samples for measles since October 2022, of which 17% (or 1060 cases) were confirmed positive.

To date, Limpopo has recorded 476 cases; 109 in Mpumalanga; 217 in the North West; 176 in Gauteng; 32 in the Free State; 16 in the Western Cape; 21 in KwaZulu-Natal and seven in the Northern Cape.

Children most affected

Since early 2023, the age groups five to nine years, as well as 10 to 14 years, have had the highest incidence rates of the measles virus infection.

The NICD said prevention and control of measles outbreaks can only be achieved through vaccination and advised that the supplementary national measles vaccination campaign continue to cover all children from the age of one to 14 years.

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Reducing infection rates

The country’s reproduction number – a key metric that indicates the virus’s ability to spread – was estimated to be 0.89, as of 25 May.

According to the NICD, the fact that the estimated number is below 1, shows a decline in infection rates.

While the infection rates appear to be on the decline, the NICD calls for vigilance and continuous surveillance.

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According to the NICD, the vaccination status of a large number of cases remain unknown, which obscures the data and makes it efforts to contain the disease more challenging.

It urged South African parents to make use of the national supplemental immunisation campaign which has been rolled out in all provinces since February this year for children aged six months to 15 years.

Measles: What are the symptoms?

Measles is highly infectious and spreads rapidly from person to person. Complications of measles include pneumonia, diarrhoea, dehydration, encephalitis, blindness and death.

The symptoms include:

  • A high fever
  • A rash
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red and watery eyes

Anyone with these symptoms should be taken to their nearest clinic or GP so that the diagnosis can be confirmed with a blood test.

For more information about measles, case definition, notification, investigation, and guidelines for measles management, including vaccination, visit the NICD website.