There has been a slight rise in reported cases in Herefordshire over the last couple of months*. However, with the spread of the disease in South Wales, local health professionals are bracing themselves for a potential outbreak, and parents are being urged to make sure their children have received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
The increase comes at the back of a national increase of measles cases in 2012 and has mainly been associated with unvaccinated children and teenagers. There were 2,016 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales reported to the Health Protection Agency in 2012, which is the highest annual total since 1994.
Elizabeth Shassere, Herefordshire’s director of public health, said: “Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily particularly in schools. It is crucial that children and young adults are fully immunised with the necessary two doses of MMR.
“The good news is that it is highly preventable when children are immunised with the MMR vaccine, but parents need to make sure their children receive two doses of the vaccine in order to be fully protected against measles. We are seeing an increase in the number of cases as a direct result of parents not getting their children immunised.”
Dr Arif Mahmood, consultant in public health medicine, Herefordshire Council, added: “The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect children against measles. We are urging parents of children who have either not been vaccinated or have only had one dose of the MMR to arrange vaccination with the GP as soon as possible. With measles now known to be circulating in the community, any child who has not received two doses of MMR vaccine is at risk of getting measles.”
Measles begins with fever that lasts for a couple of days followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes). The rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the upper body and then extends to the arms, hands, legs and feet. After about four days the rash starts to fade.
What to do if you think you or your child has caught measles:
• Due to its infectious nature, avoid immediately attending your local GP Practice or Walk in Centre, instead telephone for advice and further information, or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
• Anyone who is very unwell should attend A&E but on arrival must tell staff immediately that they may have been in contact with measles.
• If you have measles do not go to school or work for five days from when the rash first appeared and inform your school or employer immediately.