Health experts in North Lincolnshire are urging parents to make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date after an increase in the numbers of measles cases. Three cases of the illness have been confirmed in the area in children too young to have received an MMR jab.
Measles is nowrelatively rare in the UK because a vaccination – the MMR – protects against it. However, those who have not had an MMR jab, or who have only had one dose, can still be vulnerable to the virus.
Dr Terry Matthews, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for North Yorkshire and the Humber HPU, said: “Measles cases are still unusual these days but once the virus is in the community it spreads very easily and the recent cases in very young children show how important it is to get vaccinated to protect both individuals and our whole community from these infections.
“It is very important that anyone affected stays at home to avoid infecting others. Measles is extremely infectious and so please do not go straight to the hospital A&E department, but seek advice from your GP.
“While most people who get measles will recover completely within a couple of weeks, for some it can be a very serious illness. People with measles are very infectious – particularly from the start of the early symptoms to around four days after the rash develops - and anyone with measles should stay off school or work until at least five days after the rash starts.
Dr Matthews added: “When measles occurs, complications can be quite common and include severe coughs and breathing difficulties, ear and eye infections and pneumonia. In rare cases, measles can cause serious complications affecting the brain and nervous system, and even deaths on very rare occasions.
“There is no specific treatment for measles and anyone with the virus is advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol to reduce fever. The key message though is that measles is preventable and children can be protected with the safe and effective MMR jab.”
Dr Matthews added that babies under the age of one are more vulnerable to the measles infection as they are too young to have had the immunisation and be protected that way. Therefore, it is especially important that any older children have had both doses of the MMR so they do not put babies at risk by catching the virus and passing it on.
Frances Cunning, Director of Public Health for North Lincolnshire, said: “MMR is a highly effective, safe vaccine which is given to children in two doses – one when they are aged between 12 and 13 months and one before they start school around the age of 3 and a half years.
“We know from research that about 10% of people receiving the first dose of the MMR vaccine may not have full protection against measles, mumps and rubella and so it is important that all children have the second dose as well, to make sure they are fully protected.
“Also, if you're planning a pregnancy and you have not had measles, you should arrange to have the MMR jab before becoming pregnant. If you catch measles when pregnant, it can be passed on to the unborn child, which can be harmful or even fatal for the baby.
“The summer holidays is a good time to check up on things like whether your children’s vaccinations are up-to-date and, if not, make sure you get them protected before they go back to school in September. Remember, it’s never too late to vaccinate! MMR - like all vaccinations - can be given at any age. If your child has missed any vaccinations your GP, practice nurse or health visitor will be happy to arrange for them to catch up on ensuring they are protected from what can be nasty illnesses.”
Confirmed cases of measles for Yorkshire and the Humber region:
- 2011 - 62 cases
- 2010 - 33 cases
- 2009 - 51 cases
- 2008 - 50 cases
- 2007 - 136 cases
- 2006 - 47 cases
You can find out more about measles here.