The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) have been monitoring outbreaks of mumps and measles in South Africa during 2023. A rise in cases is due to a decline in immunisation rates, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are mumps and measles?
Mumps and measles are both contagious viral diseases. They’re spread through direct contact with an infected person, or airborne droplets from a sneeze or cough.
Symptoms of mumps include painful swelling of one or both salivary glands on the sides of your face. You may also experience fever, headache, muscular aches or pain, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Complications from mumps include painful swollen testicles (in about 20% of young adult males), encephalitis (an infection that causes your brain to swell), meningitis and hearing loss.
The first signs and symptoms of measles may include a high fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, watery and red eyes, and small white spots inside your cheeks. After several days, you’ll develop a rash of large blotches on your face and upper neck. The rash then spreads to your hands and feet. It can last for five to six days.
Serious complications from measles include blindness, severe respiratory infections, ear infections, diarrhoea and encephalitis. Complications may cause death in unvaccinated or under vaccinated children under five years old. Adults over 30 years old are also at high risk of complications from measles.
Besides coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow, and washing hands and frequently touched surface areas, vaccines are available to prevent mumps and measles.
The vaccines are safe and effective. One dose of the mumps vaccine is about 80% effective in preventing the disease.
The measles vaccine has saved millions of lives. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles caused about 2.6 million deaths every two to three years before the vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2000 and 2021, the measles vaccination saved 56 million lives.
The South African Department of Health recommends and has made two measles vaccines available at no cost for infants between six and 12 months old. These vaccines are also available as a preventative care benefit on all Bestmed options, except Beat1 and Beat1 Network.
A combined vaccine to prevent measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is also available as a preventative care benefit to Bestmed members from nine months to six years old. A combined vaccine to prevent MMR and chickenpox is available to beneficiaries between nine months and 12 years old. Again, these vaccines are available on all benefit options, except Beat1 and Beat1 Network.
For Bestmed’s comprehensive paediatric vaccine list, click here.
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