Measles at highest level for 18 years in England and Wales

Risk to children not vaccinated at the routine age

There were 2,016 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales reported to the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) in 2012, the highest annual total since 1994. The measles cases identified during 2012 have been associated with prolonged outbreaks in Merseyside and Surrey and Sussex, as well as several smaller outbreaks in travelling communities across England and Wales.

The UK along with France, Italy, Spain and Romania accounted for 87% of the total 7,392 measles cases reported throughout the European Union countries up to the end of November 2012.

‘Coverage of MMR is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA.

‘ Older children who were not vaccinated at the routine age, who may now be teenagers, are at particular risk of becoming exposed, while at school for example.

‘Measles continues to circulate in several European countries that are popular with holidaymakers. Measles is a highly infectious disease so the only way to prevent outbreaks is to make sure the UK has good uptake of the MMR vaccine, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to target unvaccinated individuals in the vicinity as soon as possible.

She added: ‘Measles is often associated with being a disease of the past and as a result people may be unaware that it is a dangerous infection that can lead to death in severe cases.’

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