Warning after cluster of measles cases

DOCTORS have urged parents to help prevent a measles epidemic after an outbreak of the potentially killer disease in Suffolk.Five children in the Bungay area have been diagnosed with measles and a sixth case is now suspected, prompting health bosses to press parents to ensure their children are vaccinated.

By Jonathan Barnes

DOCTORS have urged parents to help prevent a measles epidemic after an outbreak of the potentially killer disease in Suffolk.

Five children in the Bungay area have been diagnosed with measles and a sixth case is now suspected, prompting health bosses to press parents to ensure their children are vaccinated.

The county has one of the lowest uptakes of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine outside London, with only 85% of two-year-old children in Suffolk being vaccinated.


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Dr Torbjorn Sundkvist, of the Suffolk Local Health Protection Unit, said: "I would urge parents who have not had their children vaccinated to think again.

"As the number of children being vaccinated declines, so the chances of a serious outbreak increases."

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The five children suffering from measles – which can cause convulsions, pneumonia, encephalitis and can kill – have all recovered, as has the youngster with suspected measles.

But doctors have warned the extremely contagious disease could become more common after a fall in take-up of the MMR vaccine. The decline has been attributed to academic studies linking the triple jab with autism.

The county's GPs, who can give MMR jabs, have been informed of the measles outbreak and asked to be vigilant.

Dr Sundkvist said: "One in five young children are susceptible to this potentially very serious disease.

"It is contagious even before the familiar rash appears – and a very casual contact can transmit the disease."

Children who have not been vaccinated can be given the MMR vaccine by their GP and adults who have not had the disease and have not been vaccinated can also receive the jab.

Dr Michael Debenham, whose Northlands Practice in Hintlesham offers a single vaccine alternative to the combined MMR, said the number of unvaccinated children had risen to dangerous levels.

"With MMR vaccinations at their lowest ever level, we are close to the brink of a major epidemic, as has already happened in Italy and Spain," he said.

"This makes it all the more important for parents to have their children vaccinated. But we cannot agree with the Government's line in trying to force parents to accept combined MMR."

He added: "All the available evidence shows that single vaccines are both safer and more effective, yet the Government totally refuses to accept this because it could lead to massive compensation claims by MMR victims."

Parents wanting to know more about the MMR vaccine can call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or go to

www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk.

MEASLES FACTFILE

Measles is a very contagious viral disease that can cause potentially fatal lung and brain complications.

People get measles by breathing in droplets that contain the measles virus or by contact with fluids from the nose or throat of an infected person.

An uninfected person can contract measles simply by breathing in the air in a room where an infected person has been - the virus can live in the air for two hours after the person has left the room.

The first symptoms of measles are a runny nose, cough and slight fever. The person's eyes become red and sensitive to light as the infection progresses.

The second stage begins after three to seven days. The fever reaches 103F to 105F and a red blotchy rash appears.

The rash, which lasts for four to seven days, usually starts on the face and spreads to the chest, back, arms and legs.

The risk of complications varies with age, with infants under two years and adults over 20 facing the highest risk of 20% to 30%.

There is no specific treatment for measles, although it is preventable through immunisation.

If you think you or your child may be showing symptoms of the disease, call your GP immediately.

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