20 June 2018

The following information is from our colleagues at Public Health England

Young people are being encouraged to make sure they have had both doses of the MMR vaccine before going on holiday to Europe where there are large outbreaks of measles. Cases of measles also continue to rise across England in unvaccinated people of this age, including the West Midlands.

The vaccine is available free to anyone who has not received both doses as a child. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella – all of which can be very serious diseases and are highly infectious.

Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands lead Health Protection consultant, said: “Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to extremely serious complications. In the early 2000’s there was a fall in MMR vaccination coverage in children and as a consequence we are now seeing measles cases in young adults – where the infection can have severe consequences, with a higher likelihood of hospitalisation. Complications can include hepatitis (liver infection), meningitis (swelling of membrane surrounding brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (swelling of the brain), loss of vision, and in rare cases it can even be fatal.

“Since the start of November 2017, there has been an ongoing outbreak of measles in the West Midlands region, with 116 cases documented. With outbreaks across England and Europe, it is vital that anyone who hasn’t had two doses of the MMR vaccine contacts their GP to get up to date, especially before going on holiday. If you are unsure of your vaccination status call your GP; MMR is a perfectly safe vaccination and there is no problem if you end up having a third dose.”

While vaccine uptake levels in the UK in young children are currently very high, coverage levels dipped to a low of 80% in 2003. This means that there are significant numbers of unprotected teenagers and young adults who could catch measles both in England, particularly in environments of close mixing such as summer festivals and when they travel abroad for the summer holidays.

Between 1 January 2018 and 18 June 2018 there have been 643 laboratory confirmed measles cases in England. Cases were reported in most areas with London (225), the South East (137), West Midlands (82)*, South West (79), and Yorkshire and Humberside (74) reporting the most cases (based on provisional figures).

Dr Sibal added: “People should be vigilant for the symptoms of measles, including high fever; sore, red, watery eyes, coughing, aching and feeling generally unwell and a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms. If you’re concerned that you or your child may have measles, please do not go to A&E or your GP surgery straight away, instead telephone your GP first or ring NHS 111 for advice. This will prevent measles being spread to other people, including those more vulnerable to infection.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that to prevent outbreaks of disease, 95% of people need to have received the MMR vaccine. Parents are urged to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at 3½ years of age.