Measles warning – Advice, symptoms and what to do if your child isn’t vaccinated after outbreaks

Parents have been warned to ensure children's MMR vaccinations are up to date. Picture: Gareth Fulle

Parents have been warned to ensure children's MMR vaccinations are up to date. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Parents in Suffolk and north Essex are being warned to make sure their vaccinations are up to date following outbreaks of measles in Europe.

Latest health data reveals cases in the UK have leapt up this year.

But the figures also show hundreds of young children are not being taken to GPs for their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines.

As schools break up for the holidays, health chiefs are urging people to do all they can to ensure vaccinations are kept up to date in a bid to curb growing numbers of cases.

In the UK, 757 cases of measles have been reported so far this year.

That’s almost triple the 274 cases logged in 2017 as a whole.

What’s the situation in our area?

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In Suffolk, 90% of children turning five had received the recommended two MMR jabs in the 2016-17 financial year.

That means one in 10 – an estimated 860 five-year-olds in the area – had not been vaccinated.

Approximately 1,850 children aged five in Essex had not been vaccinated against measles in that year – but 90% of youngsters had been protected by jabs.

Both counties fell below the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s threshold of 95%.

Areas where fewer than 95% of the population are vaccinated are at a heightened risk of a measles outbreak, experts are warning.

What should I do if my child isn’t vaccinated?

Parents are being urged to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, by contacting their GP.

Surgery staff will often have records to refer to, and can quickly arrange for a child or young person to be added to a vaccination programme.

Chiefs at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are also advising teenagers who missed their jabs in the late 1990s to ensure they are up to date before travelling.

Many people in this age group missed their course of vaccinations in the late 1990s because of links made between the jab and developing autism.

These connections have since been discredited.

Why are vaccinations against measles so important?

Helen Donovan, of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the threat posed by measles should not be underestimated.

She said: “Measles is extremely infectious, especially where large crowds of people gather, such as at festivals or in towns.

“Thanks to vaccination it has become increasingly rare in the UK, but recent increases in infection rates show we can’t be complacent.”

In Britain, babies are usually given the first MMR jab within a month of their first birthday.

This is part of their routine vaccination schedule, and the second is usually administered after they turn three.

Ms Donovan added: “The MMR vaccine is free. Getting immunised is quick and simple – an appointment with your practice nurse will only take a few minutes.”

What are the symptoms of measles? (via NHS choices)

Initial symptoms:

• A runny or blocked nose

• Sneezing

• Watery eyes

• Swollen eyelids

• Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light

• A high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)

• Small greyish-white spots in the mouth

• Aches and pains

• A cough

• Loss of appetite

• Tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

The measles rash

This usually appears around two to four days after the initial symptoms.

It normally fades after about a week.

Those with the illness will usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.

The rash:

• Is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches

• Typically first appears on the head or neck, before spreading to the rest of the body – usually outwards

• Can be slightly itchy

• May look similar to slapped cheek syndrome, rubella or roseola

What should I do if my child exhibits these symptoms?

Contact your GP as soon as possible – even if you are not completely sure.

For more help and advice, visit the NHS choices website.

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