Measles Warning Issued As Cases Of Infectious Illness Climbing In Kids

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said it is “very concerning” to see cases of measles starting to pick up this year.
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There has been a rise in measles cases, prompting calls for parents to check their children are fully up-to-date with their MMR vaccines – and to book them in for catch-up jabs if they aren’t.

Between January 1 and April 20 this year there have been 49 cases of measles compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022.

Most of the cases have been in London although there have been cases picked up across the country and some are linked to travel abroad, the UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia, meningitis, and on rare occasions, long-term disability or death.

Symptoms include a high fever, sore red watery eyes and a blotchy red-brown rash. It is particularly easy to catch in environments when in close contact with others.

Why are measles cases on the rise?

In recent years the number of children vaccinated against measles has fallen – despite the jab being free on the NHS.

Uptake for the first dose of the MMR vaccine in two year olds in England is 89%, and uptake of two MMR doses at age five years is 85% – well below the 95% target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, uptake for routine childhood immunisations also fell globally.

Measles is now circulating in many countries around the world and the WHO has warned that Europe is likely to see a resurgence unless countries catch-up on vaccinating children who missed out.

Children are offered the first dose of the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps and rubella when they turn one and the second dose at three years and four months.

What do parents need to do now?

Parents can check their child’s vaccine record in their Red Book or call their GP surgery to see if their child is up-to-date with vaccination.

The UKHSA is urging parents to do this especially before they travel this summer or attend summer festivals, where measles can spread more easily.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said it is “very concerning” to see cases of measles starting to pick up this year.

“Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community,” she said.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, so anyone with symptoms is advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice, before visiting the surgery or A&E, to prevent the illness spreading further.

If your child has missed one or both doses of the MMR vaccine, you can contact your GP practice to book an appointment.