Health officials in England are reporting an increase in measles in the past several weeks, prompting calls to the public to ensure they are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Since the beginning of February 2016, 20 cases of measles have been confirmed across London (12 cases) and the East of England (Cambridge – 3 cases; Essex – 2 cases; Hertfordshire – 3 cases), predominantly in immunized adolescents and young adults (aged 14 to 40 years). Many of these cases have been admitted to hospital.
Measles activity in England has been at historically low levels since the successful MMR catch-up immunization campaign in 2013, which targeted immunized and partially immunized adolescents aged 10 to 16 years. 103 and 91 cases of measles were confirmed in England during 2014 and 2015 respectively.
The MMR vaccination is routinely provided as part of the NHS Childhood Immunization Program in England. Uptake is high with more than 90% of children receiving 1 dose of the vaccine by 2 years of age since 2011 and 2012.
Dr Kevin Brown, Deputy Director of the Virus Reference Department at Public Health England, said:
While measles is now relatively uncommon in England thanks to the MMRvaccine, those who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, remain susceptible to the disease.
The cases we have seen recently have been confirmed mainly in adolescents and young adults. It’s important to be aware that it’s never too late to have the vaccine, so if you’ve not received two doses of the vaccine in the past – or you’re unsure – speak to your GP. There’s no harm in receiving an additional dose where there is any uncertainty.
Also remain alert to measles, which can include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature or a red-brown blotchy rash. If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention, but be sure to phone ahead before you visit your GP surgery so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected.
You should also see your GP if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’ve not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven’t had the infection before – particularly those who are immunosuppressed, pregnant or infants.