Measles outbreak alarms public health officials

According to the Public Health England (PHE) there are “large outbreaks” of measles in Europe that is cause for concern.

Those travelling to Romania, Italy and Germany, says the PHE, without getting the measles vaccine (MMR) are at a greater risk of getting the infection. United Kingdom in 2016 had achieved a World Health Organization (WHO) measles elimination status says the PHE and the general population is safe if vaccinated. Elimination status means that the number of cases are too low to allow spread in the population. The MMR vaccine protects against three infections – measles, mumps and rubella. Two doses of the vaccine is necessary for protection against the infections.

Measles rash. Image Credit: Phichet Chaiyabin / Shutterstock
Measles rash. Image Credit: Phichet Chaiyabin / Shutterstock

Until 9th of January, there have been 34 confirmed cases in West Yorkshire, a further 29 in Cheshire and Liverpool, 32 in the West Midlands, 20 confirmed in Surrey and 7 in Manchester. A total of over 120 cases have been reported. Measles is a viral disease that is highly contagious. The symptoms begin with fever, cold, runny and red nose and eyes and a typical red, blotchy rash. The symptoms may last for about a week or 10 days and usually resolves without specific treatment. However in some children, there could be complications following measles including pneumonia that could get serious.

According to Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, this outbreak suggests that there is a need for reminding parents to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine. Children need the first dose at around 1 year of age and a pre-school booster at three years and four months of age she said. Children and adults who have not been vaccinated can contact their GPs about getting the two doses of the vaccine she added. “We’d also encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks,” she added. Those born before 1970’s are most likely to be immune because they probably have been exposed to the virus. All persons and parents of children suspected to have measles need to contact their GP advises the PHE.

Measles may be self-limiting (does not always need treatment for resolution), but it remains one of the largest killers of children worldwide. There are around 430 deaths globally attributed to measles daily. Measles is vaccine preventable and almost all children would have been vaccinated against it if not for the measles vaccine and “autism” controversy. Dr. Andrew Wakefield in his now discredited research published in 1998 had claimed links between measles vaccine and autism. This scared a generation of parents and made them withhold the vaccine from their children spurring the measles epidemics and outbreaks worldwide. Further research has now shown that there is no scientific basis to Wakefield’s claim and the vaccine is safe and effective. A measles episode is likely to be much more deadly say experts.



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