By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Officials with Public Health England (PHE) reported yesterday that due to several reasons, the United Kingdom has lost it’s WHO measles elimination status.

In 2017 the World Health Organization declared that the UK had eliminated measles. However, that elimination status has not been maintained.

WHO defines measles elimination as the absence of circulating measles, in the presence of high vaccine coverage, along with good systems to identify cases of the disease. In countries that have eliminated measles, measles can still occur, but these will be isolated cases that only have limited spread within the community.

However, in 2018, there was a marked increase in the number of confirmed measles cases, with 991 confirmed cases in England and Wales, compared with 284 cases in 2017.  Furthermore, the same strain of measles virus (called B3 Dublin) was detected for more than 12 months across 2017 and 2018. Based on this, WHO determined that the UK could no longer be consider as ‘eliminated’ and that transmission of measles had been re-established.

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Measles remains endemic in many countries around the world and there are currently several large outbreaks in countries across Europe where MMR vaccine uptake has been low.

While coverage of the first dose in the UK has reached the WHO target of 95% for children aged five, coverage of the second dose is at 87.4%.

In fact, PHE recently reported that 1 in 7 five year olds may not be fully up-to-date with some routine immunizations, with the figure rising to around 1 in 4 children in London.

More specifically, over 30,000 (around 1 in 19) five year olds may still need to receive their first dose of MMR, leaving them significantly more at risk compared to pupils who are fully vaccinated AND around 90,000 (or 1 in 7) five year olds in England may still need to receive their second dose of MMR vaccine. Almost 30,000 of these children are in London, meaning that around 1 in 4 primary school starters in the capital don’t have the full protection that the MMR vaccine offers.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said, “We’re particularly concerned about children being at greater risk of measles. We’re continuing to see outbreaks of the disease occurring in communities across the country, many linked to visiting European countries over the summer holidays.

“The vast majority of those affected are not fully immunized and vaccine preventable diseases spread more easily in schools. It’s crucial that children have maximum protection as they begin to mix with other children at the start of their school journey.”