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NICD, government urge public caution over communicable disease spikes during holiday period 

NICD, government urge public caution over communicable disease spikes during holiday period 
Limpopo Health MEC Phopi Ramathuba attending a measles vaccination campaign in Limpopo in September. Pictures: Supplied

As holidaymakers are preparing to travel around the country, several disease-related warnings have been issued for South Africa — measles, whooping cough and rabies.   

There have been 227 reported cases of measles in the country, with the majority reported in Limpopo. This is the latest reported increase in diseases as South Africans prepare to go on holiday. 


On 22 December, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed 227 cases of measles across five provinces. Limpopo had the most cases with 110, followed by Mpumalanga with 64 cases and North West with 27 cases. Gauteng and Free State were next with 10 cases and five cases respectively. According to the NICD, the number of cases is increasing daily. 

NICD first reported an outbreak of cases in Limpopo in October. Measles is a highly contagious disease, reported Daily Maverick at the time of the outbreak. Common symptoms include a fever and a rash that looks like small, flat red spots all over the body. Other symptoms include cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis. 

Whooping cough 

Earlier in December, the NICD warned of an increase in pertussis (whooping cough) cases in South Africa. The NICD said the cases occurred among younger children, particularly infants younger than three months old. The increases have mostly been reported in the Western Cape. 

Whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable disease with immunity following vaccination that lasts for approximately 5-6 years. The NICD said clinicians are advised to be on alert for cases, conduct diagnostic testing where appropriate, vaccinate healthcare workers and encourage pregnant women to vaccinate where possible. 

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This week, Daily Maverick reported warnings issued by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development over rabies, a zoonotic disease which can be passed from animals to humans. The virus is transmitted through an infected animal’s saliva when it bites, scratches or licks a person. “In animals and humans, the disease affects the brain and once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment, and it is 100% fatal,” said the department in a press release. 

The department said that rabies is prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, as well as on the border between the Free State and Lesotho. Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were particularly high-risk areas for rabies. “The public is advised not to approach, touch or pick up stray dogs and cats from these areas for whatever purpose” the department warned. 

The department said if someone suspects they have been exposed to an animal that may have rabies, they must wash the wound very well with soap under running water and immediately seek preventative treatment at the nearest healthcare facility. 

The Department of Health has also posted malaria awareness posters on social media platforms, calling for people to get to healthcare facilities should they experience malaria symptoms. Nausea, fever, body pain, sore throats and headaches were common symptoms of malaria as well as Covid-19 and the department cautioned those living in malaria-endemic areas to get tested for both. DM


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