Measles fear for hospital staff

A MAJOR vaccination programme of hospital staff could be undertaken after it emerged many were at risk of catching measles, a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease.

Laurence Cawley

A MAJOR vaccination programme of hospital staff could be undertaken after it emerged many were at risk of catching measles, a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease.

The lack of immunity among workers at West Suffolk Hospital was only discovered after three patients were admitted and diagnosed with the disease.

A “high proportion” of workers who had contact with the affected patients had not been vaccinated against the disease, trust chiefs have confirmed.

As a result, the Bury St Edmunds-based hospital is reviewing all staff health records and sending letters to those who have not had two MMR vaccinations or a pathology result indicating immunity.

Senior staff at the trust have called on staff to take the issue “seriously” adding it was “vital” the trust had the correct information about staff susceptibility to measles.

Most Read

Those found to be at risk of the disease, which is believed to have killed 200 million people in the past 150 years, will be given vaccinations, a trust spokesman said last night.

In a staff newsletter, the hospital's consultant microbiologist Dr Caroline Barker said: “The incidence of measles is on the increase and at the beginning of this year three patients were admitted and diagnosed with measles which is an exceedingly infectious disease.

“A high proportion of staff in contact with these cases were found to lack immunity to measles and were in danger of becoming very unwell.

“It is, therefore, vital that the trust is aware of all healthcare workers immune status to reduce the spread of infection and to protect our staff.”

Jenny Saunders, the trust's occupational health manager, said: “Due to a small measles outbreak around the beginning of the year we asked 19 members of staff not to come into work for a period of 18 days.

“These members of staff had not been immunised against measles and were identified of being at risk of developing the illness.

“Measles is highly contagious and if we had not taken this action the infection could have spread and put our workforce and patients at risk. In worst case scenario measles can be fatal, so its seriousness can not be underestimated.

“Our action was justified as two members of staff did develop measles whilst off work. During this period agency staff were brought into cover so that patient care and services were not disrupted.

“All members of staff affected were offered immunisation and have all returned to work. We are also in the process of identifying other members of staff who may not be immunised against measles and offering them a vaccine to prevent any potential risks to our workforce in the future.”

Figures collected by the Suffolk office of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show during 2007 there were 30 recorded cases of measles, six of which were confirmed by saliva testing.

So far this year there have been 12 cases, just two of which have been confirmed by saliva testing.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter