London school children could face three-week isolation if unvaccinated against measles

Vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella are at a decade low Credit: PA

Barnet and Haringey councils wrote to parents in the north London boroughs warning that children not fully vaccinated with the MMR jab could face a 21-day exclusion if a classmate is infected.

This is down to a steep increase in measles cases. Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show that there were 128 cases of measles in the first half of 2023, with 66% of those found in London. This is more than double the 54 cases in 2022.

Uptake of the MMR vaccine is at its lowest in a decade and the top 10 areas in England with the lowest vaccination rates are all in London.

Cases of measles in the UK are on the rise and while the UKHSA believes the risk of a UK-wide epidemic to be small, due to low vaccination rates London could face an outbreak of up to 160,000 cases.

What is measles? Symptoms and how to spot the infection

Measles is highly infectious and usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later.

The key early symptoms to look out for are:

  • a high temperature

  • a runny or blocked nose

  • sneezing

  • a cough

  • red, sore and watery eyes

The rash usually starts on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body.

Treatment for measles and when to get help

There is no specific treatment for measles, and it usually gets better within about a week. If you have measles, you should stay hydrated and you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help bring down a fever.

Up to one in five cases need hospital treatment and the infection can also lead to more serious complications including meningitis and sepsis.

The NHS advises you should go to A&E if you have measles with the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath

  • a fever that does not come down after taking paracetamol

  • coughing up blood

  • drowsiness

  • confusion

  • fits or seizures

The MMR vaccine

Measles can be prevented by having the MMR vaccine. This is given in two doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme; children usually receive their first dose just after their first birthday and a second dose before they start school.

If you have never been vaccinated or missed a dose, you can catch up at any time.

The vaccine has been used since the 1980s and is 99% effective in protecting against measles.

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