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Media release from Public Health England - Families urged to ensure children and young adults are protected with MMR

Cases of measles reported across England and Wales continue to be at the highest levels seen since 2004 and parents are being encouraged to take action.

In line with trends across the country, the number of cases of measles is rising in North Yorkshire, York and the Humber. Since the beginning of January 2013, 80 suspected cases of measles have been reported across the area (28 of which have been laboratory confirmed).  By comparison, 29 suspected cases of the disease were reported in the same area between January and March the previous year, 2012 (none of which were laboratory confirmed). 

In response, public health experts are urging parents in York to ensure their children have received two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Public Health for York, said: “Despite the recent national increase across the UK, overall measles is now relatively rare because a safe and effective vaccination – the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) – 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. Being vaccinated is very important, not just to protect individuals, but also to stop the virus from spreading in the community and potentially seriously affecting others.”

Measles is a highly infectious illness, which spreads very easily through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Dr Edmondson-Jones added: “It is important that all children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine to ensure they are fully protected from the disease. MMR vaccination can be given later on if missed at the scheduled ages.

“Measles is entirely preventable but two doses of MMR are needed for optimum protection. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. If you or your child has not been vaccinated, or you are unsure, contact your GP or health visitor for advice or to arrange vaccination.”

Dr Autilia Newton, Director of Public Health England’s North Yorkshire and the Humber Health Protection Team, said the majority of cases being reported currently were in North Yorkshire, York and the East Riding of Yorkshire and children and young adults who had not been fully vaccinated with MMR were the most susceptible groups.

“Whilst we are not yet seeing an increase in measles cases on a scale seen in other parts of the UK, we are beginning to see a gradual increase in some parts of North Yorkshire and the Humber,” she said. “Once measles begins to circulate in communities, the illness spreads very easily and this is why it is important for families to check their children are up-to-date with their MMR immunisations now.

The initial symptoms of measles may include:
• Cold-like symptoms;
• Red eyes;
• Fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat;
• After a few days a red-brown spotty rash will appear. It usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the legs and the rest of the body.

Dr Newton said: “As measles is extremely infectious, anyone who is affected by symptoms of measles in the community at any time should not go straight to the hospital A&E department or to a GP surgery. Instead, advice should be sought from GPs by telephone so that arrangements can be made to attend surgery, if necessary, in a way which will prevent spreading infection to others. It is very important that anyone affected by symptoms stays at home until at least five days after the rash starts, to avoid infecting others.

“Where measles occurs, complications can be quite common and can 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 rare occasions.”

Ends

For more informtation, please contact www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england

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