The NHS has warned of a measles outbreak in two parts of the UK and is advising anybody showing symptoms to stay at home and call their GP or NHS 111 for advice.
Outbreaks in Leeds and Liverpool have been confirmed, and the health service has recommended anyone who hasn’t had both parts ot their Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination to contact their GP.
The outbreaks are thought to be independent of each other and are only affecting children and teenagers who haven’t been vaccinated.
Public Health England (PHE) is ramping up vaccination programmes in the affected areas, which independent experts said “could be life-saving”.
NHS Choices has shared advice for anyone concerned they may have symptoms:
Infections begins with flu like symptoms and with small spots visible inside the cheeks, the characteristic red-brown blotchy rash appears a few days later, beginning around the head and neck.
Last month the World Health Organization declared measles was “eradicated” in the UK, and this still stands as the infection is not being transmitted around the country.
New outbreaks tend to be caused by visitors from outside the UK and can only take hold where vaccine uptake is lower.
Measles is a highly infectious illness most common in young children but which can affect anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated against the disease or infected previously.
It can lead to complications including deafness, pneumonia and blindness – measles remains one of the leading causes of child blindness in countries without robust vaccination programmes.
Around one in 5,000 cases results in death, but an outbreak in Europe earlier this year killed 35 – the majority in Romania.
The MMR jab is an extremely effective protection against the disease. But cases in the UK rose because of fears of the vaccine’s link to autism stoked by discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield in the 1990s.
Low vaccine uptake was thought to be one of the reasons measles took hold in 2013, causing an outbreak affecting hundreds in South Wales.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: “We are currently are seeing measles circulating in Liverpool and Leeds in two separate localised outbreaks, which are being managed by local health protection teams.
“All of the cases we are seeing are in children and young adults who haven’t received the MMR vaccine.
“This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children when offered at 1 year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years, four months of age. If children and young adults have missed these vaccinations in the past, it’s important to take up the vaccine now from GPs, particularly in light of the recent cases in Liverpool and Leeds.
“We’d also encourage anyone to ensure they have the MMR jab before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks like Romania, Italy and Germany.”
Professor Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity at the University of Oxford, said: “Measles is a very serious disease and outbreaks can kill the most vulnerable people in the population, especially young children.
“It isn’t too late for anyone who has missed the vaccine to be vaccinated today, and that could be life-saving.”
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