Measles outbreak: Lab-confirmed cases rise to 71


The number of laboratory-confirmed measles cases has risen to 71 from 56 over the last week, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).


The cases are concentrated in two provinces. Limpopo – where the outbreak started in the Greater Sekhunene district – has 60 cases while Mpumalanga has 11.

The four affected districts in Limpopo have all been declared outbreak areas. They are Capricorn, Greater Sekhukhune, Mopani, and Waterberg. The Vhembe district, which has two lab-confirmed cases, did not meet the outbreak criteria.

The South African previously reported that the threshold for declaring an outbreak is the detection of three or more confirmed cases within 30 days.

“Eleven laboratory-confirmed measles cases have been reported in Mpumalanga province, with nine from the Ehlanzeni district, one from the Gert Sibande district, and one from the Nkangala district,” said the NICD.


Three patients have been hospitalised thus far and no deaths have been reported. The most affected age group are children aged 1 to 4 in Mpumalanga and 5 to 9 in Limpopo.

When the outbreak started, the NICD noted that the vaccination rate for both measles injections has dropped off in recent years.

In Limpopo, 38 of the patients had unknown vaccination histories, 11 did not receive any measles vaccine doses, nine were fully vaccinated and two were partially immunised (one dose).

“In Mpumalanga province, in three laboratory-confirmed measles cases vaccination histories were unknown, five did not receive any measles vaccine dose, and three were fully immunised,” said the NICD.


The NICD is contact-tracing and vaccinating patients and their contacts in the affected areas. In healthcare facilities, catch-up measles vaccine doses are administered to children who missed the shot before in order to increase immunity in communities.

“The public health response to the measles outbreak in Limpopo province should target improving measles immunity in all five districts. Vaccination of measles case contacts is recommended in Ehlanzeni district to prevent the spread of the measles virus,” said the Institute.

“As previously reported, infected patients usually present with fever and a rash, which looks like small, red, flat spots all over the body. The rash is not itchy and it does not form blisters.

Other symptoms include a cough, runny nose, red eyes. It can also lead to complications including diarrhoea, dehydration, brain infection, blindness and death.

“Other measles complications are pneumonia, scarring of the cornea (kerato-conjunctivitis), and rarely encephalitis. Complications are more serious in those who catch measles as young infants (under 2 years of age) and in children who are malnourished,” said the NICD.


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