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Measles outbreak in Liverpool worsens, public health experts say

Most cases are unvaccinated children, according to the HPA

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 01 March 2012

The number of measles cases in and around Liverpool is continuing to grow, public health experts have warned.

According to the Health Protection Agency, there are now 36 laboratory confirmed measles cases in and around the area. A further 35 probable cases are under investigation and numerous reports from GPs are in the process of being followed up. The majority of the cases are in Liverpool and neighbouring areas of South Sefton (Aintree and Waterloo), but there are six are in Knowsley, three in St. Helens and one in Widnes.

The majority of cases are children under the age of five who were not vaccinated at the optimum age of 13 months and babies and toddlers who are too young to be vaccinated. A small number of adults have also been affected.

The advice to parents is to contact their GPs and arrange for any unvaccinated children to be protected by MMR vaccine as soon as possible.

Dr. Roberto Vivancos, a consultant with Cheshire and Merseyside HPU, said: “If parents aren’t sure if their children have previously been vaccinated, they should check with their family doctor. MMR protects against measles, mumps and rubella, three illnesses that can be very serious.

“Measles is highly infectious and unvaccinated children will always be at risk when it gets into a community. Furthermore, when unvaccinated older children pick up an infection they present a risk to siblings and other babies and children who are too young to be vaccinated.”

The HPA is also advising people with symptoms of measles to stay away from school, nursery or work until at least four days have elapsed since the rash developed. Patients are also advised to telephone their GP practice before attending in order to make arrangements for minimising the measles patient’s contact with other vulnerable patients, and to avoid contact with infants and pregnant women who are more vulnerable to the infection.

A measles unit in Liverpool composed of HPA and NHS staff is actively engaged in tracing contacts of measles cases. Where appropriate, contacts are given preventative treatment to limit the spread of infection.

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