Measles cases rise to 886

Public Health Wales has reported that the number of measles cases has risen to 886, as children have gone back to school after Easter. 25-year-old Gareth Williams died during the epidemic, it has not been confirmed whether measles was the cause.

Latest ITV News reports

Measles 'cannot be taken lightly'

Although we want children of all ages who have missed vaccinations to catch up now, we are particularly concerned about those aged between 10 and 18. These are the children who would have missed vaccination because of concerns about the safety of MMR in the late 1990s. The vaccine is safe, effective and the only protection against a potentially fatal disease.

We can’t bring this outbreak to an end unless the parents of unvaccinated children either arrange vaccination with their GP, call into one of the weekend drop-in sessions or ensure that if their child attends a school where vaccinations are being offered, they have signed a consent form for them to be vaccinated.

Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). MMR vaccination offers the only protection against these complications.

– Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales

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Measles cases in Wales top 800

A further 43 cases of measles have been reported to Public Health Wales since Tuesday. A total of 77 people have been hospitalised since the beginning of the outbreak with a total of 808 cases now reported since the outbreak began.

Swansea has launched a huge immunisation programme to try and find those who missed the MMR.
Swansea has launched a huge immunisation programme to try and find those who missed the MMR.

Although children of all ages are being affected by the outbreak, the highest numbers of cases are being seen in those aged between 10 and 18 who would have missed routine vaccinations as small children.

The discredited doctor at the heart of the MMR scare

Dr Andrew Wakefield makes a speech ahead of his hearing at the General Medical Council in 2010
Dr Andrew Wakefield makes a speech ahead of his hearing at the General Medical Council in 2010 Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told MPs that the work of the Dr Andrew Wakefield caused "huge damage and worry to thousands of parents".

Research published by the Dr Andrew Wakefield in 1998 suggested a link between the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella and autism.

Published in the respected Lancet medical journal, the report received widespread media attention and lead to a significant decline in children being given the MMR vaccine.

But concerns were raised when other scientists failed to recreate his results and the General Medical Council launched a review of the research.

The Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer exposed significant flaws in Dr Wakefield's research and ethical practices.

Following an extensive investigation in 2010, the General Medical Council struck Dr Wakefield off the medical register, describing him as "dishonest", "unethical" and "callous".

The GMC found that large parts of the research were falsified, completely discrediting the paper's findings.

Find out more about Jeremey Hunt's concern about 'discredited' MMR scare claims

MP: Homeopathy won't protect children from measles

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP has made a heartfelt plea to her constituents to get their children vaccinated following an outbreak of measles in Wales.

The Devon MP who was a practising GP before her election, wrote on her blog that many of her constituents mistakenly believed that homeopathy would protect their children.

The real 'herd' effect may be an unwarranted fear that vaccination is harmful or the belief that 'natural' methods like homeopathy can boost a child's immunity and thereby offer a safe alternative to protect against this virus.

Most homeopaths do encourage parents to vaccinate alongside the use of homeopathy. Given the current outbreak in Wales, it is also time for their their governing bodies to issue an unequivocal statement that homeopathy offers no protection whatsoever against this serious illness.

– Dr Sarah Wollaston

The British Homeopathic Association said that there was no evidence to suggest that homeopathy should be used to prevent measles and stressed that parents should give their children the MMR vaccine.

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More measles clinics open as cases rise in Wales

Kieran Elford is given an MMR injection in Swansea
Kieran Elford is given an MMR injection in Swansea Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Naden

Extra vaccination clinics are being opened across South Wales after cases of measles were confirmed in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cyon Taf.

Cwm Taf Health Board said that all health boards in Wales are "are developing plans to vaccinate unprotected children and young people and to provide rapid implementation of school based immunisation in response to cases and outbreaks".

For details about where to attend vaccination clinics visit ITV Wales.

Hunt hits out at 'discredited' MMR scare claims

A global scare sparked by the "discredited and inaccurate" claims of a doctor 15 years ago over the MMR vaccine have caused huge worry to parents in South Wales following a measles epidemic in the region, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said Dr Andrew Wakefield's comments about the vaccination had "absolutely no scientific basis" as he urged parents of children who had not been given two doses to contact their local GP as soon as possible.

Mr Hunt told the Commons, "What Andrew Wakefield said had absolutely no scientific basis and has caused huge damage and huge worry to many thousands of parents".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Credit: ITV News

"It is very important to reiterate that the scientific way to prevent measles, which can be a horrible, even fatal disease, is to make sure that you have had two doses of MMR", he continued.

"Parents of children who have not had those doses, parents of children of any age, should contact their GP if they have not had those two doses, particularly in the current circumstances".

Wales

Measles cases in every part of Wales

Public Health Wales says there are now cases of measles in every health board area in Wales.

Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection, says "we have no way of knowing where the outbreak might spread."

The outbreak has centred on the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot area.

We can’t bring this outbreak to an end unless the parents of unvaccinated children either arrange vaccination with their GP, call into one of the weekend drop-in sessions or ensure that if their child attends a school where vaccinations are being offered, they have signed a consent form for them to be vaccinated.

As children return to school after the Easter holidays, the opportunities for measles to spread increase. Now is the time to vaccinate your children.

– Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection, Public Health Wales
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