Kate Kniveton, the Member of Parliament for Burton and Uttoxeter, is calling on anyone who isn’t vaccinated to urgently come forward to get their measles (MMR) vaccine amid rising cases in the region.
Between the 1 October and 12 January, there were 167 confirmed cases (including 4 travel-related) and a further 88 likely cases. Around 80% of cases have been seen in Birmingham, with about 10% in Coventry, however other local authority areas are now being affected by measles.
UKHSA health professionals are concerned that these figures will rise quickly, as while most parents ensure their children get both MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) doses, in some communities' uptake of the MMR vaccine is worryingly low and this is why we are seeing this rapid spread.
Measles spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools, and is a nasty illness, and in some children can be very serious and lead to hospitalisation – and in rare cases, tragically can cause death. People in certain at-risk groups, including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications if they catch measles.
Commenting, Kate Kniveton MP said:
“Cases of measles are on the rise. This contagious infection can have enormous debilitating impacts, particularly in young children and those with weakened immune systems. The MMR vaccine is highly effective against measles and I would strongly urge everyone who has not had the full two doses to get protection now.”
Dr Naveed Syed, UKHSA West Midlands Consultant in Health Protection, said:
“We are seeing cases of measles rising every day in the West Midlands. The virus is very infectious and can spread rapidly among communities, such as schools, if people have not had at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.
“Uptake of MMR in the region is much lower than the 95% needed to protect the population, which is giving this serious disease a chance to get a foothold in our communities. That’s why it’s vital that anyone who hasn’t had TWO doses of the MMR vaccine by the time they started full time school gets immunised as soon as possible.”
MMR is part of the NHS Routine Childhood Immunisation Programme. Parents whose infants missed out, or anyone of any age unvaccinated, are urged to come forward. The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.
Parents should check their children are fully vaccinated with 2 MMR doses, which gives 99% life-long protection, by checking their red book or with their GP practice, which younger and older adults can also do. Anyone not up-to-date should make an appointment as soon as possible.
Achieving high vaccination coverage across the population, ‘herd immunity’, is important as it indirectly helps protect very young infants (under one) and other vulnerable groups.
About the MMR vaccine
MMR is a highly effective and safe vaccine. Children should receive 2 doses of MMR for maximum protection. The vaccine not only protects them, but also limits the chances of the virus spreading more widely, for example to children who are too young to have the vaccine and to adults who may be more vulnerable to the disease.
The MMR vaccine is part of the routine NHS schedule of childhood vaccines administered:
- 1st dose just after the child’s first birthday
- 2nd dose at 3 years 4 months and certainly before children start school full time
The MMR vaccine is safe and provides effective protection against three diseases – measles, mumps, and rubella. Two doses of MMR are required to produce the maximum protection. Anyone who is not up to date with their MMR vaccines should contact their GP to arrange an appointment.
For people who do not touch any pork products, there is another MMR vaccine available which does not use porcine gelatine in its production and GPs in muslim communities will have these in stock.
Further information on measles and the MMR vaccine can be found on the NHS website: www.nhs.uk
More information about measles is available on the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/
Further information about the MMR vaccine can be found on the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine/
What is measles?
Measles is a viral infection most commonly found in young children who have not been immunised. However, adults can also catch measles if they have not had it before or have not been immunised against it.
It begins with fever that lasts for a couple of days followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes). The rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the upper body and then extends to the arms, hands, legs and feet. After about 5 days the rash starts to fade.
How serious is measles?
Measles is an unpleasant illness and easily passed from one person to another. In some people it can cause complications, such as ear infection, chest infections and even pneumonia. In very rare cases some people who get measles can develop serious complications, which can be fatal.
How do you catch measles?
The measles virus lives in the nose and throat of infected people. Measles is caught through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when he or she coughs or sneezes. A person with measles can infect other people from the day before they become unwell until 4 days after the rash appears.
How is measles treated?
There is no specific treatment for measles, but measles can be prevented by a highly effective vaccine. This is part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunisation programme, with a first dose at 12-15 months and a second dose at 3-5 years.
A scientific paper authored by Andrew Wakefield and 12 others, which appeared in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998 and implied a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, was disproved and retracted by the journal in 2010.
What to do to avoid passing on the infection:
Limit your contacts with other people, particularly those who are:
- children who are under 12 months or have not had the MMR vaccine
- people who have weak immune systems
- if you have measles, do not go to school or work for 5 days from when the rash first appeared and inform your school or employer immediately
Who is at risk from complications?
Anyone can be susceptible to complications from measles; however complications resulting from measles are more likely to develop in some children, for example:
- children with a weakened immune system, such as those with leukaemia or HIV/AIDS
- children with a poor diet
- children under the age of 5 years
Complications are also more likely to develop in adults who are over the age of 20
Complications of measles include:
- ear and eye infections
- croup (an infection of the lungs and throat)
What if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant?
If you are planning to get pregnant and you have not had measles yet, you should arrange with your GP to have the MMR vaccine. If you catch measles during pregnancy, it can be passed on to your baby and can be very damaging, or even fatal. Measles in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour or a baby with low birth weight. The MMR jab cannot be given during pregnancy.