London records most measles cases amid 'concerning' rise

London is at the centre of a ‘concerning’ rise in measles cases, with 33 of the 49 detected between January 1 and April 20 found in the capital.

The total this year is already close to the 54 cases recorded in the whole of 2022. The UK Health Security Agency is urging parents to check their children’s measles, mumps and rubella vaccine records to make sure they are up to date – particularly before going on holiday.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious health problems including pneumonia, meningitis, and on rare occasions, long-term disability or death.

Symptoms include a high fever, sore red watery eyes and a blotchy red-brown rash. It is particularly easy to catch in environments when in close contact with others.

The uptake of the MMR vaccine has fallen to 85% for second doses in children aged five, well below the 95% target set by the World Health Organization to achieve and maintain elimination.

Last month the WHO warned that 67million children have missed out on life-saving jabs in recent years around the world. 

‘We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their two MMR doses,’ said Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA. ‘It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS whatever your age.

‘Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community.

‘Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is very concerning to see cases starting to pick up this year.

‘During the COVID-19 pandemic we saw a fall in uptake for the routine childhood vaccinations, including MMR, which leaves us vulnerable to outbreaks – especially as people travel abroad for summer holidays to places where measles is more common.’

Measles, mumps and rubella

Measles – usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth. Measles can lead to serious problems if it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain. Problems that can be caused by measles include pneumonia, meningitis, blindness and seizures (fits).

Mumps – a contagious viral infection. Mumps is most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), giving a person with mumps a distinctive “hamster face” appearance. Other symptoms of mumps include headaches, joint pain, and a high temperature, which may develop a few days before the swelling of the parotid glands.

Rubella – also known as German measles, it is a rare illness that causes a spotty rash. It usually gets better in about a week, but it can be serious if you get it when you’re pregnant. Rubella can also cause aching fingers, wrists or knees, a high temperature, coughs, sneezing and a runny nose, headaches, a sore throat and sore, red eyes.

Source: NHS

Before the introduction of the measles vaccination in 1963, measles caused an estimated 2.6million deaths every year.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield alleged the MMR jab caused autism, a claim repeatedly disproved but which continues to circulate today.

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