An outbreak of measles has been declared after two cases were found in the East Midlands region. Two cases of the disease were found in Leicester and the county’s director of public health has urged parents make sure their children have had their MMR jabs, reports The Mirror.
Rob Howard said: “We have recently had two confirmed cases of measles in the city; one case is a university student, and the other is a school student. Neither have had the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine known as MMR. Measles is a very infectious virus and spreads very easily.
“People who catch measles usually recover completely within a couple of weeks, however it can be a very serious illness that can lead to permanent disability, and occasionally can cause death. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to have the MMR vaccination. Anyone who hasn’t already had two doses should contact their GP surgery for an appointment to get vaccinated.”
Measles is highly infectious and can lead to serious complications, particularly in immuno-suppressed individuals and young infants. It is also more severe in pregnancy, and increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm delivery.
Earlier this week UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published a measles risk assessment which concluded that although the risk of a UK-wide measles epidemic is considered low, a measles outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in London, due to sub-optimal uptake of the MMR vaccine in the capital.
Figures from NHS England and UKHSA show 92.5% of children had had the first dose of the MMR jab at five years old by 2022/23, the lowest since 2010/11. Five-year-olds who had had the second jab by 2022/23 was at 84.5%, also the lowest level since 2010/11.
It comes as vaccination programmes across England failed to meet the uptake recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the year 2022/23. WHO recommends that, nationally, at least 95% of children have jabs for diseases that can be stopped by vaccines, in order to prevent outbreaks.
However, NHS data showed no routine vaccine programme met the threshold during the 12-month period. Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist at UKHSA, said the downward trend is a “serious concern”.
“The diseases that these vaccines protect against, such as measles, polio and meningitis, can be life-changing and even deadly. No parent wants this for their child especially when these diseases are easily preventable. Please don’t put this off, check now that your children are fully up to date with all their vaccines due. Check your child’s red book and get in touch with your GP surgery if you are not sure.”
In the UK, babies are offered immunisation against meningitis B and rotavirus at eight weeks old, and are also given the “6-in-1” jab, which helps fight polio, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type b – a bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections. The doses are topped up at 12 weeks and 16 weeks.
Susanne Howes, Consultant in Health Protection at UKHSA East Midlands, said: “It’s important that people are alert to the symptoms of measles, which usually starts with cold-like symptoms accompanied by fever, a red-brown blotchy rash, and sore red eyes.
“Initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after a person is infected, but can take between 7 to 21 days. If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention but be sure to phone ahead before you visit your GP surgery or other healthcare setting, so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected.”