Scram­ble against measles out­break

The Times (South Africa) - - NEWS - TANYA FAR­BER

WHEN Dr Amanda Neeth­ling re­ceived a call from her 17-year-old son, Neels, say­ing he had a headache and sore throat, she was not too wor­ried.

But when his school called later to say he was in “a very bad way and had a fever of 40°C”, she rushed to the school in Stel­len­bosch, West­ern Cape.

The next even­ing Neels was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal af­ter he and five school friends were di­ag­nosed with measles in one of the big­gest out­breaks in the past five years.

Melinda Suchard, a doc­tor at the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases, said: “This year we have had measles out­breaks af­fect­ing 29 peo­ple in the West­ern Cape from Jan­uary to March and 45 in Gaut­eng from May to June.”

More out­breaks in the North West, East­ern Cape, Mpumalanga and Lim­popo prompted the Depart­ment of Health to ac­cel­er­ate its mass im­mu­ni­sa­tion cam­paign. About 450 000 peo­ple in the West­ern Cape alone were im­mu­nised.

Yo­gan Pillay, deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral in the depart­ment, said it was hoped 4.5 mil­lion chil­dren would be im­mu­nised in the cam­paign.

A sur­vey last year by Stats SA showed only 61% of two-year-olds had re­ceived all their ba­sic vac­ci­na­tions and 53% all their age-ap­pro­pri­ate vac­ci­na­tions. Be­tween the ages of two and three the fig­ure dropped, which Suchard said was more likely due to par­ents for­get­ting to take their chil­dren for vac­ci­na­tions than choos­ing not to vac­ci­nate.

Colin Almeleh, di­rec­tor at early child­hood de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme Ilifa La­bant­wana, said the an­ti­vac­ci­na­tion trend “started in 1998 with the pub­li­ca­tion of a sci­en­tific ar­ti­cle link­ing the measles, mumps and rubella vac­cine to autism”.

The claims were “later found to be com­pletely false”.

Neeth­ling said par­ents who de­cided not to vac­ci­nate were mak­ing a big mis­take be­cause chil­dren who had been vac­ci­nated did not get these dis­eases and, if they did, they re­cov­ered quickly.

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