Plea to parents over measles jab
PARENTS in Essex are being urged to help prevent a major outbreak of measles before the new school term begins.Twenty confirmed cases have been reported in the past couple of weeks around the Chelmsford and Maldon areas, coinciding with a drop in the county's measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation rate to below the national average.
PARENTS in Essex are being urged to help prevent a major outbreak of measles before the new school term begins.
Twenty confirmed cases have been reported in the past couple of weeks around the Chelmsford and Maldon areas, coinciding with a drop in the county's measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation rate to below the national average.
This represents a steep rise on the 'very few' incidences usually reported, prompting concern among doctors that the infection will spread, particularly as children return to school.
Although health experts said they did not wish to scaremonger, they pointed out that in extreme and very rare cases the infection could be fatal.
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They are now pressing parents to ensure their children have the MMR vaccine "without delay", while there is time to prevent the disease spreading.
Dr Amelia Cummins, consultant in communicable disease control at the Essex Local Health Protection Unit, said: "Measles is out there in Essex. People not immunised will continue to remain at risk. This is exactly what was said was the risk of what would happen if people were not vaccinated – you would have a sustained outbreak or epidemic.
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"This outbreak is obviously among people who have no record of the MMR vaccine. It is not a coincidence that the current worrying levels of recorded measles cases has come at a time when the vaccination rate is so low," she said.
The viral disease has infected both adults and children but no one has been hospitalised.
In Essex the latest recorded figure for take-up of the MMR vaccine is 75%.
Recommended coverage levels are 90% - the national average is approximately 84%.
MMR can protect 90% of all children who have had the first vaccination, a second dose raises the level of protection from measles to 99%.
Dr Cummins added: "A recent measles outbreak in Ireland unfortunately resulted in three deaths. One in every hundred children who contract the disease will end up in hospital and one in every 2,500 to 5000 will die."
She was convinced that distorted media reporting of the risks was responsible for low immunisation rates, despite evidence that MMR is a safe vaccine.
"The same amount of coverage is given to the few who argue that MMR is not safe. There are people who genuinely believe that there are equal arguments on either side," she added.
"I would urge parents of children who haven't received the MMR vaccination to arrange for this to be carried out without delay."
Dr Christopher Parry who operates a private single measles vaccination clinic in Oaks Drive, Colchester, was equally clear in his advice to parents.
"Go and see your GP or the practice nurse and have the vaccination. Only if you won't have the MMR, contemplate the single vaccine. The MMR is one jab and it's free."
"The measles vaccination is the only one you can be protected against immediately if there is an outbreak," he added.
Dr Parry also pointed out the risk to children under one-year-old, who are not normally immunised. "This age group can be under the greatest risk. Parents should go and discuss it with their GP."
Last month, the East Anglian Daily Times reported a similar, much smaller, outbreak in Suffolk, where five children in the Bungay area had been diagnosed, following low immunisation rates.