Measles rise in Suffolk

PARENTS have been urged to immunise their children with the MMR jab after it was revealed measles cases in Suffolk had risen compared to this time last year.

Danielle Nuttall

PARENTS have been urged to immunise their children with the MMR jab after it was revealed measles cases in Suffolk had risen compared to this time last year.

The number of notified cases in the county has increased by 15 to 21 this year, and confirmed cases from two to three, figures released by the Health Protection Agency show.

Notified cases are those based on symptoms and clinical suspicion only, while confirmed cases are those verified by a laboratory test.

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Across England and Wales, the number of notifications and confirmed cases has increased by 39%, from 589 to 970.

In Suffolk, 83% of children received their first MMR dose by their second birthday, and 71% by their fifth birthday.

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In Norfolk, excluding the Yarmouth area, 86% had one dose of MMR by the age of two, but only three-quarters had the recommended two doses by age five.

In Cambridgeshire, the figures were 85% and 78% respectively.

A spokesman for the protection agency's Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire health protection unit, said: “These uptake rates are similar to the regional average, but, unfortunately, this is not enough to ensure herd immunity.

“It is recommended that at least 90% of children need to have had the vaccine in order to achieve the level of immunity which can stop continuous spread of the infection.”

Dr Chris Williams, from the unit, added: “Because there are fewer cases of measles nowadays, people forget that it is a highly infectious and dangerous illness. MMR is a safe, effective vaccine which will protect children. The vaccine is given to children in two doses: one just after their first birthday, the next around the time they start school (from three years, four months).

“However, even if your child is older and has missed their vaccination it is not too late to protect them with MMR. Contact your GP, school nurse or health visitor to arrange to get them protected against what can be a very serious illness.”

Measles is an infectious viral illness that used to affect up to 800,000 people a year but has been rare in the UK in recent years because of the MMR vaccination - which immunises against measles as well as mumps and rubella.

Controversy raged amid claims in 1998 that the vaccine was linked to autism and bowel disease. But this was never proved, and the vast majority of experts now believe the vaccine is safe.

Those who have not had the vaccine, or have had only had one dose, can still be vulnerable to the virus.

Almost everyone infected will feel generally unwell and develop symptoms such as fever, cough, red and painful eyes, swollen glands and loss of appetite, as well as a rash that tends to develop three to four days after onset of the above symptoms.

In Norfolk, notifications are up from 15 to 20 this year and confirmed cases have doubled from four to eight compared with the same period in 2007.

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