Warning Over UK Measles Outbreak, With Tens Of Thousands Of Predicted Cases

There is currently no specific treatment available for measles.

Data published today by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows there has been a steady rise in measles cases this year. A new risk assessment also reveals the potential for a measles resurgence, particularly in London.

In 2022, there were 54 cases of measles reported for the whole year and, concerningly, in the first six months of 2023, 128 cases of measles were reported and 66% of these cases were in London.

According to modelling created by the agency, London could face a measles outbreak with tens of thousands of cases expected to surge through the city.

The UKHSA has stated that the risk in London is primarily due to low vaccination rates over several years, further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in some areas and groups where coverage of the first MMR dose at 2 years of age is as low as 69.5%.

Additionally, the latest data shows that while most children are fully protected with both doses of MMR, one in ten five-year-olds in England are not – and in some areas of London up to two in five children are unprotected. This is below the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of 95% to ensure herd immunity.

Symptoms and treatment for measles

According to NHS Inform, the first symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you’re infected. These can include:

  • cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • watery eyes
  • swollen eyes
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40°C (104°F)
  • small greyish-white spots in the mouth
  • aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and normally fades after about a week. The rash:

  • is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches
  • usually first appears on the head or neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body
  • is slightly itchy for some people

Measles is a virus that spreads very easily and can cause serious complications such as meningitis and sepsis – with one in every five cases requiring a hospital visit.

There is no specific treatment for measles and the best you patients can do is manage the symptoms with painkillers, cold compresses, being in darkened rooms, and staying hydrated.

For the best possible protection against measles, both doses of the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine is essential.

Parents and guardians urged to check child’s red book

The NHS is calling for all families to find out the MMR vaccination status of their children by checking their child’s red book and contacting their GP practice to get caught up on any missed doses of MMR. They’ve teamed up with TV doctor, GP and mum, Dr Sara Kayat, who said:

“Speaking as both a doctor and a mum, the MMR vaccine is the best possible way to keep our children safe and healthy. So, I am urging parents and guardians to check your child’s red book to make sure your child is fully vaccinated against this disease.

“Two doses of the MMR vaccine is all it takes to give the best protection against the illness and by preventing the spread of measles we can ensure everyone can safely enjoy their holidays both at home and abroad.”

The NHS additionally advises that parents should check their own vaccination records and make an appointment to catch up on any potentially missed doses.