Rapid response to suspected measles cases in Eastern Cape

The cluster of cases with rash, reported in Aberdeen in the Eastern Cape, were due to rubella (German measles) and not measles virus. This analysis was confirmed through extensive laboratory testing conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The signs and symptoms of the two conditions– rubella and measles– are very similar, and laboratory testing can usually, however, not always, differentiate the two diseases. Measles vaccination of contacts in Aberdeen has been conducted, and no further action is necessary now that the cluster has been confirmed as a rubella cluster.

Rubella circulates widely in South Africa, given that there is no routine vaccination against the disease in the current Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). Pregnant women and their unborn babies are more at risk of complications of the disease, which may lead to congenital rubella syndrome.

While rubella is usually mild, measles, however, is a severe, life-threatening illness due for elimination in South Africa. Prevention of measles is managed through vaccination, routinely administered at 6 and 12 months of age in the EPI. It is never too late to catch up measles vaccine if it has been missed.

 A suspected measles case is a person who has fever with rash and cough, flu-like illness or conjunctivitis (red eyes). As measles is one of the most infectious conditions known, measles vaccination of contacts of suspected cases is required as soon as measles is suspected.

Any patient with rash and fever requires laboratory testing and notification through the Notifiable Medical Conditions Surveillance System. Further information on measles and rubella is available on the NICD website www.nicd.ac.za under Diseases A-Z.

Diseases A-Z Index

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