There has been a huge rise in measles cases already this year inciting a national campaign to ensure that children and adults are adequately vaccinated against measles.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious illness. Complications of the disease include pneumonia and meningitis. In some cases, the virus can be fatal.
The MMR vaccine is a highly safe and effective vaccine that not only offers protection against measles but also against mumps and rubella, as a 3-in-1 vaccine.
In the UK, the uptake of the MMR vaccination has declined significantly, resulting in an increase in measles infection. It is estimated that 3.4 million children under the age of 16 years remain unprotected against the disease.
The UK is not alone with rising cases of measles. The World Health Organization has reported a 30-fold increase of measles in Europe. Over 30,000 measles cases were reported by 40 of the Region’s 53 Member States between January and October 2023. Compared to 941 cases reported in all of 2022.
The MMR vaccination forms part of the national childhood schedule where the vaccinations are given at one year of age and then at 3 years of age.
Two doses of the vaccination provide over 99% protection against illness.
Although measles is a highly contagious illness, it can be easily prevented with vaccination.
For full protection, ensure your child has received their routine childhood immunisations of 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.
Children at high risk of measles exposure can receive an accelerated vaccine schedule of MMR if they are high risk for contracting the disease, where two doses are given one month apart.
Infants at high risk contracting the disease can receive the MMR from as early as 9 months of age.
In some cases, a catch-up vaccination may be recommended for individuals who have not received the vaccine at the recommended ages.
Additionally, in certain situations, infants may receive an early dose of MMR, such as during outbreaks or if they will be traveling to areas where there is an increased risk of exposure.
Travellers who are visiting countries reporting outbreaks of measles should ensure that their routine immunisations against MMR have been completed. A simple blood test can confirm immunity if in doubt.
HOW MANY VACCINES ARE NEEDED?
Two doses of the MMR vaccine will provide lifetime immunity.
In the UK, these are normally given to a child around their first birthday. The second is normally given at around the age of three. If there is a risk of an outbreak or an infant is at higher risk to contract the disease, vaccines are sometimes given as early as 9 months of age.
You can easily book an MMR vaccine appointment online.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED?
Adults are also encouraged to check their own and their children’s vaccination status. This is especially important for those who are considered vulnerable or those travelling to countries that have reported outbreaks of measles.
In the first instance, you should call your GP for confirmation of your vaccination history. If you didn’t have the MMR vaccine or your course is incomplete, you can book your MMR catch up vaccinations online.
Alternatively, if you are unable to find your records, a simple blood test will be able to confirm if you are immune or not. If you were born before 1970, it is assumed you will be immune through natural infection with the disease.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PARENTS?
Yes, we wrote a separate blog for parents who are worried about measles. We cover symptoms of measles, what to do if you suspect your child has measles, what to do if your child has been exposed to measles, amongst other important information.
The take home message being that the risk to you child dramatically reduces if they have had the full course of the MMR vaccine. If they are part-way through the course or have missing vaccinations, we encourage you to consider catch up vaccinations for full protection and peace of mind.
Read our full blog on what to do if you think your child has measles and when you should keep them off school.
CAN ADULTS RECEIVE THE VACCINE?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to have catch up vaccinations if they are required.
If you are unsure of your vaccination status, we would recommend a blood test to check your antibody level first. If we discover that you are not immune, you will require two vaccine doses, given a month apart.
WERE THERE ANY WARNING SIGNS OF AN OUTBREAK?
In July last year, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued a warning that, unless vaccination rates improve, London is at risk of a major measles outbreak. Even after that, the vaccination rates did not improve.
It is predicted that in some areas of the capital, up to forty per cent of children are not protected from measles by the time they start school. Young adults between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five are also particularly vulnerable. Referred to as the ‘Wakefield cohorts’ by UKHSA, this generation were exposed to misinformation published in the early 2000s and as a result, many were left unvaccinated.
In a bid to mitigate risk, councils wrote to households across the capital explaining the possibility of isolation requirements; Children who are identified as close contacts of a measles case, and who do not have an up-to-date vaccination record, may be required to self-isolate for up to twenty-one days. The NHS are therefore urging parents to check their children’s’ vaccination status. Records of their vaccines should be kept at their GP practice, or in their red book.
RELATED SERVICES AVAILABLE AT FLEET ST. CLINIC
CONTINUED READING ABOUT THE UK HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY (UKHSA) “ISOLATION WARNING FOR LONDON CHILDREN WITHOUT MEASLES JAB”
CONTINUED READING ABOUT THE LATEST MEASLES STATISTICS AND GUIDELINES (UKHSA) “LATEST MEASLES STATISTICS PUBLISHED” & “NATIONAL MEASLES GUIDELINES”
What to do if you think your child has measles and when to keep them off school.
Measles cases are increasing throughout England, particularly among children. This highly contagious infection can lead to severe complications for some individuals.
Since there is no specific medical treatment for measles, obtaining vaccination is crucial for the best defence against serious illness. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations, meaning most children are already immunised against measles.
If your child has received both doses of the vaccine, it is unlikely that they will contract the virus.
Here, we’ll provide everything you need to know about measles, from ensuring your child’s vaccination to knowing when to keep them away from school.
What are the symptoms of measles?
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.
Symptoms of measles usually start to appear 7-14 days after you become infected, which include:
- Runny/blocked nose
- High temperature
- Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
- Sore throat
- White spots inside the mouth
What does a measles rash look like?
Measles usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, body, arms, legs, and feet. Small, raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body.
What should you do if you think your child has measles?
If you suspect that you or your child might have measles, it’s important to request an immediate GP appointment or seek assistance from NHS 111.
Before visiting the GP or any healthcare facility, make sure to call ahead for guidance.
In the event of a measles diagnosis for your child by a doctor, it is advisable for them to refrain from attending nursery or school for a minimum of 4 days from the onset of the rash. Additionally, they should steer clear of close interactions with infants and individuals who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems.
What is the best way to protect against measles?
The best protection against measles for children and adults is to get both doses of the MMR vaccine.
MMR vaccination is available at Fleet Street Clinic for children and adults who would like catch-up on doses. If you or your child haven’t been vaccinated yet, or have an unfinished course of vaccines, either book an appointment online or contact our reception team on +44 20 7353 5678 to book an appointment.
We can usually accommodate same day appointments.
Alternatively, children receive the vaccine at no cost on the NHS at 12 months and then a second dose at 3 years and 4 months. You may find the NHS vaccination service has a longer wait time that us.
If you prefer a version of the MMR vaccine without pork products, please get in touch, explaining your preference and we will do our best to accommodate. It’s important to note that we would be ordering this product specially for you, so there may be a longer wait time for delivery and prepayment will be required. Either call our reception team on +44 20 7353 5678 or email email@example.com
Cold-like symptoms can be an early sign of measles. Should you still send your child to school?
If your child has been vaccinated, it’s very unlikely that they have measles. Check if they have a high temperature or a fever, and if not, we’d advise it’s fine to send your child to school.
Keep an eye on their symptoms and adapt accordingly if they worsen.
When should you keep your child off school or nursery and how long for?
If your child has measles, they should stay off nursery or school for at least 4 days from when the rash first appears and avoid close contact with babies and anyone who is pregnant or has a weakened immune system.
The school will let you know if your child has been in contact with someone who has measles and advise what you need to do.
They may advise people who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, such as unvaccinated siblings to stay away from school for the incubation period to be on the safe side.
The incubation period is the length of time it can take to develop the illness after being in contact with someone with measles. For measles, the incubation period can be up to 21 days.
Anyone, child or adult, who has been vaccinated is unlikely to be considered susceptible.
If you’re not sure whether your child is due a vaccination or has missed a vaccination, you can check their Red Book or contact your registered GP practice for confirmation.
Should you keep your child off school if another pupil has been diagnosed with measles?
Most children will be protected against measles and there is no need to keep your child off school if they have had both their MMR vaccinations.
Your school will let you know if your child has been in contact with someone with confirmed measles and will advise what the next steps are.
Can I still get my child vaccinated even if they’re older?
Yes. The MMR vaccine is suitable for adults and children, therefore, anyone who has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine can book an appointment for catch up vaccinations.
It’s best to have vaccines on time, but you can still catch up on most vaccines if you miss them. Two doses of the vaccine are needed to ensure full protection.
RELATED SERVICES AVAILABLE AT FLEET ST. CLINIC
Measles Outbreak – What You Need to Know
The WHO has issued a warning about recent outbreaks of measles in Europe and the USA. Cases of measles have risen rapidly in recent months in Italy, Romania and most recently in US.
Measles is a highly contagious virus with potential for serious complications.
Initial symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- High Temperature
- Spots in the mouth
- Aches and pains
- Sore eyes and swollen eyelids
A rash appears after 2-4 days which can present as blotchy spots, often starting at the head and progressing down.
Medical Advice for Measles
If you think you may be suffering from measles, or are concerned about risk of infection when travelling, please see your doctor straight away.
Travelling to areas with a risk of measles
Make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations before you travel, including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. If your child will be travelling, the MMR can be given from 6 months of age. If you have not had measles or if you have not had two doses of MMR, you may be at risk. Measles is easily passed from person to person and can be a serious illness in adults as well as children. It is never too late to have the vaccine.
Cases of measles reported in the UK
A number of cases of measles have been reported in Liverpool and Leeds. Recent outbreaks in Europe, where countries such as Romania and Italy have been affected, are believed to have caused the increase in UK cases. To date, 17 cases in Leeds and 8 cases in Liverpool have been reported.
Measles is a highly infectious virus which can be transmitted to anyone who is not vaccinated, most commonly to young children. To prevent outbreaks, it is recommended that 95% of the population is vaccinated.
Initial symptoms can be similar to a cold and include:
- Runny nose
- High Temperature
- Spots in the mouth
- Aches and pains
- Sore eyes and swollen eyelids
A rash appears after 2-4 days which can present as blotchy spots, often starting at the head and progressing down. MEDICAL ADVICE FOR MEASLES
If you think you may be suffering from measles, or are concerned about the risk of infection, please see your doctor straight away.
Vaccination against MEASLES
Make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Although the NHS immunisation schedule offers the vaccine to children from 12 months of age, the MMR can be given from 6 months. If you have not had measles or if you have not had two doses of MMR, you may be at risk. Measles is easily passed from person to person and can be a serious illness in adults as well as children. In 2012 there were 122,000 deaths worldwide caused by measles. It is never too late to have the vaccine.
MMR Vaccination at Fleet Street Clinic
You can book an MMR vaccination online.
Measles on the rise:
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has reported that measles cases are on the rise worldwide and in Europe alone, outbreaks have surged to a 20-year high.
The WHO states that reported measles cases (provided by each country) currently show that about 229,000 cases have already been reported, compared with 170,000 for 2017. Worryingly the 2018 number is likely to rise as the reporting deadline ends April ’19.
With a 50% increase in measles cases last year, it is important to understand the benefits of vaccinating against measles:
Dr Richard Dawood, our Medical Director explains;
“I recently heard about a patient suffering a bad attack of shingles. She didn’t believe in doctors, medicines or vaccines, I was told, and was languishing at home, with a dreadful, crusted rash across her body, and burning with pain. She had stuck to her beliefs and refused to take antiviral medication that could have aborted the attack or reduced the probability of ending up with long term nerve damage and lingering pain. Shingles can strike more than once, but since she doesn’t believe in vaccines (there is a good one that is 95% effective) she will have to take her chances of a recurrence in future. I disagree with her opinions, but her latest actions will harm nobody but herself.
But measles is different: when it comes to vaccination, personal choices and opinions have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of others – individually as well as for entire communities. Measles vaccination is a major public health issue. Memories of the past outbreaks, epidemics, tragic disability and loss of life that drove research and ground-breaking vaccine development now belong to a previous generation. In these days of “fake news”, “influencers” and social networks, it has become too easy to undermine confidence in matters of public health. In the case of measles, concerns about vaccine safety are down to the “fake research” of Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register for concocting a spurious link with autism in the 1990s. But the damage was long-lasting.
The complications of measles are most severe in babies who are not yet old enough to be vaccinated, and children with reduced immunity. When the rate of vaccination in the general population falls below 95%, outbreaks occur and can easily spread, with the highest impact on those most vulnerable populations, undermining years of hard work around the world to bring measles under control.
That is what is happening now”.
VACCINATION AGAINST MEASLES
‘The highly contagious disease can cause severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and vision loss. It can be fatal in some cases and remains an important cause of death among young children”, according to the WHO.
The disease can be easily prevented with two doses of a safe and efficient vaccine that has been in use since the 1960s’.
Make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Although the NHS immunisation schedule offers the vaccine to children from 12 months of age, the MMR can be given from 6 months. If you have not had measles or if you have not had two doses of MMR, you may be at risk. Measles is easily passed from person to person and can be a serious illness in adults as well as children. It is never too late to have the vaccine.