With a recent measles outbreak contained and diarrhoea statistics far lower compared with previous years, the City of Cape Town reminds parents and caregivers that completing the course of immunisations and having regular health checks are key to ensuring the health of their children. Read more below:
The City of Cape Town appeals to parents to be very diligent in ensuring that their children receive the full course of routine vaccinations to prevent them from contracting serious illnesses.
World Immunisation Week starts today, 24 April 2017, and is aimed at raising awareness about full immunisation coverage and its importance in achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals.
It comes shortly after the City and Western Cape Health Department concluded an immunisation campaign necessitated by a measles outbreak at a Stellenbosch school in January 2017. The campaign started on 20 February 2017, targeting children younger than five as well as adolescents under the age of 15 in the hotspot areas affected by the outbreak. A total of 32 positive cases were identified, of which three reside within the boundaries of the Cape metropolitan area. Overall, 66,3% of the targeted population was immunised during the measles campaign.
‘The positives to take out of the measles campaign include the fact that the number of cases was limited and there were no serious complications or fatalities. Collectively we managed to get 66% percent of the target population. However, there are still far too many children out there who did not receive a measles immunisation booster. World Immunisation Week puts the issue squarely back into the spotlight by reminding us that immunisation is the single most cost-effective preventive health intervention. In line with the City’s new Organisational Development and Transformation Plan, we need to work more proactively to ensure the health and safety of our communities, and we can only do this by working together. So I appeal to parents to work with us in creating a safe city by taking their children to their nearest clinic to get their vaccinations up to date,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.
Another child health priority for the City’s Health Department is diarrhoea prevention and treatment. During the warmer months between November and May, there is an increase in the number of diarrhoea cases. Children younger than five are particularly vulnerable to the dehydration associated with the disease. However, statistics to date indicate that the current season has been the mildest on record for a number of years, as outlined in the graph below. The number of fatalities in children under five is also down compared with previous years, with 10 recorded thus far.
‘This is certainly very good news, but we still have to wait until the end of May to get the final count of the number of cases. Diarrhoea remains a deadly disease for young children and in recent years we’ve made good progress in reducing the number of cases presenting with severe dehydration as well as the number of fatalities by implementing measures to prevent diarrhoea, but also fast-tracking cases as soon as they are detected. I commend the healthcare staff for their hard work as well as parents and caregivers who are heeding the call to familiarise themselves with the diarrhoea danger signs and present timeously for care,’ added Alderman Smith.
Some of the measures introduced to combat diarrhoea include:
• Providing Vitamin A supplements to children every six months to prevent diarrhoea
• Giving zinc supplements to children with diarrhoea to reduce the frequency and duration of diarrhoea
• Training clinic staff, particularly in emergency rehydration
• Having well-functioning oral rehydration solution corners in our clinics
• Fast-tracking diarrhoea cases to ensure timeous treatment
• Running awareness, education and hand-washing programmes for the clients attending clinics
• Taking public awareness and hand-washing campaigns door-to-door in hot-spot areas
• Training community workers, Early Childhood Development staff, and informal food vendors about health and hygiene matters
• Educating traditional healers about the symptoms and dangers of diarrhoea and the administration of the oral rehydration solution mixture (water, sugar and salt)
• Providing general practitioners and pharmacies with a standard information package containing the local arrangements to fast-track referrals during diarrhoea season
• Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding, which is one of the most important measures to prevent diarrhoea in young children
• Ensuring that hospitals are on high alert and have a plan should there be an increase in the number of cases requiring admission