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Vaccination plea as measles outbreak continues

Public health doctors urge teenagers and young adults to complete MMR course

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 07 August 2018

As latest figures demonstrate that the measles outbreak shows no signs of abating, Public Health England (PHE) is again urging teenagers and young adults to get vaccinated. Public health doctors say that anyone who is not certain that they have completed the two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should contact their GP to catch-up.

PHE local health protection teams are working closely with the NHS and local authorities to raise awareness with health professionals and local communities.

Laboratory confirmed cases have shown a steady rise since this year. Between January and May there were 440 confirmed cases in England, the majority (164) in London, the South-East (78) and the South-West (42). The total figure to yesterday 6 August stands at 807 confirmed cases - again with the most in London (281), the South-East (166), and South-West (139).

Public health doctors say the increase in measles circulation is mainly associated with travel to and from Europe where there are large ongoing measles outbreaks.

They say that young people and adults aged 15 and over who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were younger and some under-vaccinated communities have been particularly affected.

Anyone who has not received two doses of MMR vaccine is at risk, but young people in environments with close mixing such as festivals are more at risk, as well as unvaccinated people travelling to Romania and Italy, where there are currently large outbreaks. Anyone planning to travel to Europe should check NaTHNaC travel health advice.

PHE's head of immunisation, Dr Mary Ramsay, said: "The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe. The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children.

"Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up. This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at one year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years and four months of age.

"We’d also encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks."

The UK recently achieved World Health Organisation measles elimination status and so the overall risk of measles to the UK population is low, however, PHE said it will continue to see cases in un-immunised individuals and limited onward spread can occur in communities with low MMR coverage and in age groups with very close mixing.

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