The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported a significant increase in measles cases in the UK, with the West Midlands experiencing an outbreak of 216 measles cases in the last three months alone, widely surpassing the total number of cases seen in the whole of England between 2020 and 2022. In addition, there are reports that over 50 children have required hospital treatment for measles.
Measles is a highly contagious illness, easily passed on through coughs and sneezes and is particularly dangerous in shared public spaces, such as schools, colleges or workplaces. Even brief contact with an infected person can be enough to catch the disease if you have not been vaccinated against or had measles in the past.
Complications from measles include pneumonia, ear infections and inflammation of the brain, which can unfortunately be fatal or lead to long-term disability in rare cases. People who have never received the MMR vaccine or have compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of severe disease outcomes. If you get measles while you are pregnant, it could harm your baby.
It is therefore important you familiarise yourself with these symptoms:
The first symptoms include:
- High fever
- Sore, red, watery eyes
- Aching and feeling generally unwell
After a few days:
- Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of lips
- A blotchy red-brown rash, which starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body
If you think you or your child may have measles, telephone your GP surgery or ring NHS 111 (or online at https://111.nhs.uk). As measles can spread to others easily, call your GP surgery before you attend if you do need to be seen.
The best protection against this illness is the MMR vaccine, which gives up to 99% lifelong protection against measles and rubella and 88% of people will be protected against mumps. It is one of the safest vaccines used across the world and part of the UK routine vaccination schedule since 1988.
According to the WHO, an estimated 500 million doses have been administered across 100 countries in the last forty years, saving an estimated 17.1 million lives since the year 2000.
Check your own vaccination record or contact your GP to check your MMR status and make any appointments needed to catch up on vaccinations. If you haven’t been vaccinated for MMR before, you can be vaccinated for free at any age with two doses, one month apart. There are no known risks from having a potential second course of the vaccine if you or your GP are unsure of your status.
If you would like to learn more about the MMR vaccine or how to spot signs and symptoms of measles, please refer to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/.