'Reservoirs of disease': Private school pupils 'at much greater risk' of getting measles than those in state sector, says leading doctor John Ashton

 

Children at private schools face the greatest risk from the measles outbreak and could pose a health threat to the rest of the population, a leading doctor has warned.

Professor John Ashton said Britain's 600,000 privately-educated children were at much greater risk of infection than those in the state sector.

Prof Ashton, who represents the UK's public health doctors, said a mix of large numbers of middle-class children who were not vaccinated against measles following the Wakefield scare in the 1990s, along with pupils from overseas with unknown health records, meant schools could become "reservoirs of disease", the Daily Telegraph said.

He said the risk was similar to that from groups such as gypsies and travellers, who have previously spread the disease.

Prof Ashton, who will soon become president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: "You've got a lot of middle-class, well-off parents, large numbers of whom did not have their children immunised because of the Wakefield scare - which was a very middle-class phenomenon.

"Layered on top of that you have got a lot of children from abroad, especially from the Far East, from countries such as Hong Kong and China, and there are few checks being done to establish their immunisation records."

He said private schools were a "law unto themselves", and warned both pupils and the wider population were being put at risk from infectious diseases because the schools do not have proper policies to protect children and are bad at keeping adequate medical records of pupils from abroad.

Prof Ashton said: "The danger is that you have a population that can potentially become a reservoir of infection.

"Normally when you are talking about subsections of the population that are at particular risk of disease outbreaks, such as measles, you are talking about groups like gypsies and travellers.

"But actually children in private schools, and in particular boarding schools, are one of the categories most at risk."

He urged independent schools to check immunisation records of overseas pupils as a matter of urgency, and advised them to "engage with" families who refused to vaccinate their children.

Dr David Elliman, an immunisation specialist from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said he believed there was a high chance that an outbreak of measles would occur at an independent school, saying health officials were braced for such a crisis, the Telegraph said.

Prof Ashton's warning comes as health chiefs launched a major in-school vaccination drive across three counties neighbouring a region battling a measles epidemic.

Thousands of unprotected children are being targeted as part of an exhaustive four week programme to stop the disease spreading in South Wales.

The number of measles sufferers in the greater Swansea area looks certain to pass the 1,000 mark over the weekend.

Four local hospitals will host drop-in vaccination clinics today, for the fourth consecutive Saturday.

Vital vaccination sessions will also continue in a number of Swansea and Neath and Port Talbot schools next week.

A parallel programme is now being rolled out across three counties to the west of Swansea.

It comes as a major £20 million vaccination programme was announced in England targeting one million unprotected children and teenagers.

PA

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin