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Measles epidemic: what you need to know

Measles is at an 18 year high Photo: PA

What is measles?

Measles is caused by a very infectious virus giving a rash and high fever. Children who are not vaccinated may spend up to five days very ill, with around two weeks off school. Measles is also a risk in adulthood. Studies show that for every 5,000 individuals with the virus, one is likely to die.

What are the symptoms?

Before the full symptoms of measles come clear, a cold-like condition may be experienced. People often have a fever, red eyes sensitive to light and greyish spots on the throat or in the mouth.

After a few days of having the virus, a red-brown rash will develop. It usually starts behind the ears, before affecting the head and spreading over the rest of the body.

How is it spread?

A cough or a sneeze can spread the measles virus over a wide area. With children sharing buses, classrooms and dinner halls, the likelihood of catching the virus is heightened.

How can the virus be avoided?

Your child should receive MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccinations at around 13 months of age, and again before starting school. If your child has missed one of their routine MMR vaccinations, your local health service such as your GP surgery may send you an appointment to bring your child for an MMR vaccination. This catch-up is being offered to all children and young people under 18 years of age.

Children who haven't been inoculated are far more likely to catch the virus. Despite assumptions that the MMR vaccination is linked to autism, the NHS confirms this is not the case.

Credit: Reuters/Valentin Flauraud

Is it treatable?

The Measles Virus is a treatable condition. People suffering from the illness should be made comfortable to ease the symptoms. Closing the curtains will reduce light sensitivity and using a damp cotton wool ball to clean the eyes will help soothe the pain.

Over the counter paracetamol and ibuprofen with relieve the fever and aches. Patients are also advised to consume plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

If symptoms develop

If in doubt, contact your doctor or call for an ambulance in symptoms become worse.

More information can be found here

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