Cases of measles are running at their highest level for four years after the collapse of confidence in the MMR vaccine.
The number of confirmed cases of the disease this year had risen to 116 by 12 April, the latest date for which figures are available. This already exceeds the full-year total of 74 cases in 2001, the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) said.
It said 89 of the confirmed cases were in London where there was an outbreak among nursery children in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham in January. All the children are understood to have recovered.
The rise in cases has happened as uptake of the MMR vaccine has fallen to a national average of 84 per cent amid continuing controversy about its safety and alleged links with autism and bowel disease. In parts of London it has fallen as low as 73 per cent, compared with the 95 per cent rate the PHLS says is necessary to protect the population.
A PHLS spokesman said: "Since the London outbreak, we have not seen anything on the same scale. If we now return to the normal rates and there are no more outbreaks then the total should not rise too much higher."
A spokeswoman said it was essential for vaccine coverage to improve, especially in areas where it has been low for a long time. She added: "There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence proving that MMR is the safest and most effective way to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella."Reuse content