More than 120 cases of measles have been confirmed in the UK, with the outbreak affecting five areas in particular.
According to new statistics released by Public Health England (PHE), there have been 34 confirmed cases in West Yorkshire, 29 confirmed cases in Cheshire and Liverpool, 32 confirmed cases in the West Midlands, 20 confirmed cases in Surrey and seven confirmed cases in Greater Manchester, making a total of 122 cases.
Although measles is often an infection associated with children, Dr Clare Morrison, GP for online doctor MedExpress, said adults should also be vigilant.
“Measles is very dangerous for very young children and adults as well. In many ways, measles could be considered more dangerous for adults, than, say, children aged 10, because there are more likely to be complications,” she told HuffPost UK.
“By this, I mean common complications such as ear infections and diarrhoea, and more long-term complications, such as pneumonia, brain swelling and blindness.”
What is measles?
Previously speaking to HuffPost UK, Dr Nitin Shori, GP and medical director of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service said: “Measles is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications, so it pays to take any steps possible to guard against you or a loved one catching it.
“Like flu, the measles virus is spread in the tiny droplets of mucus, which become airborne when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
PHE has linked the recent surge in cases to ongoing large outbreaks of the measles infection in Europe.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, commented: “People who have recently travelled, or are planning to travel to Romania, Italy and Germany and have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk.”
What are the symptoms of measles?
According to the NHS, initial symptoms of measles include:
:: A runny or blocked nose
:: Watery eyes
:: Swollen eyelids
:: Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
:: A high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
:: Small greyish-white spots in the mouth (see below)
:: Aches and pains
:: A cough
:: Loss of appetite
:: Tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy
The measles rash is perhaps the most well-known symptom. This tends to appear two to four days after the initial symptoms and lasts for about a week.
The rash is made up of small red or brown spots and usually first appears on the head or neck.
How is measles treated?
Measles usually lasts between seven to 10 days and most symptoms can be eased at home.
The NHS recommends taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce a high temperature and relieve aches and pains, while staying well hydrated.
However, complications can develop in some cases of measles and if you feel your health is getting worse, seek medical help.
Dr Morrison said complications can include:
:: Pneumonia (infection of the lungs) - this can be prevented by taking prophylactic antibiotics - but can end up with sufferers being hospitalised and can be fatal.
:: Ear infections - these occur in about one of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
:: Diarrhoea - reported in less than one in 10 people.
:: Encephalitis (brain swelling) - this is a severe complication (but luckily less common) that can be fatal.
Dr Morrison added: “Rather than trying to avoid the complications once you’ve got measles, it’s best to vaccinate against it.”
How can you protect yourself from measles?
The vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is offered to children when they are one years old and parents are then invited to take children for a second injection, sometimes known as the “pre-school booster” at 3 years and 4 months of age.
However, in light of the recent cases PHE has issued a statement reminding the nation the MMR vaccine is available to all adults and children who are not up to date with their two doses.
Anyone who is not sure if they are fully vaccinated should check with their GP practice.