The number of cases of measles in the Southwest has reached its highest level for 18 years, health experts say.
There were 93 confirmed cases of measles in the Southwest reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in 2012, which is the highest total since 1994.
The figure is 6 more than 2011 and 83 more than 2010 meaning an 830% increase of reported cases in two years. (See chart below)
In 2012 there were 2,016 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales reported to the HPA.
The measles cases identified during 2012 have been associated with prolonged outbreaks in Merseyside and Surrey and Sussex, as well as several smaller outbreaks in travelling communities across England and Wales.
Chart: Reported case of measles in the Southwest since 1996:
The UK along with France, Italy, Spain and Romania accounted for 87 per cent of the total 7,392 measles cases reported throughout the European Union countries up to the end of November 2012.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “Coverage of MMR is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed. Older children who were not vaccinated at the routine age, who may now be teenagers, are at particular risk of becoming exposed, while at school for example.
“Measles continues to circulate in several European countries that are popular with holidaymakers. Measles is a highly infectious disease so the only way to prevent outbreaks is to make sure the UK has good uptake of the MMR vaccine, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to target unvaccinated individuals in the vicinity as soon as possible.”
Symptoms of measles include:
• cold-like symptoms
• red eyes and sensitivity to light
• 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 Ramsay continued: “Measles is often associated with being a disease of the past and as a result people may be unaware that it is a dangerous infection that can lead to death in severe cases. Parents should ensure their children are fully protected against measles, mumps and rubella with two doses of the MMR vaccine. Parents of unvaccinated children, as well as older teenagers and adults who may have missed MMR vaccination, should make an appointment with their GP to get vaccinated.
“If you are unsure if you or your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to their GP who will have a record.”