A major new measles outbreak could hit a region still recovering from an epidemic unless children get a vital MMR booster jab “as a matter of urgency”, Public Health Wales has warned.
Health chiefs are urging parents to ensure their children have had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab as cases in a renewed outbreak rise again.
More than 1,200 people contracted measles in the epidemic which swept through the greater Swansea area and became the biggest outbreak to hit Wales.
That epidemic began on a small scale in November last year, ran for more than eight months and came to an end less than four months ago.
Experts at Public Health Wales (PHW) are concerned the new outbreak could begin to spread rapidly due to the number of children still not fully protected.
“Public Health Wales is warning that unless children are vaccinated with two doses of MMR as a matter of urgency, there is potential for the outbreak to spread quickly,” a spokesman said.
The latest outbreak is largely centred on Cwmtawe School in Neath where there are now 13 linked cases.
However, one suspected case which is not linked to the secondary school has been reported in a nursery in the Swansea area.
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, PHW communicable disease control expert, spoke of his frustration today that measles has returned to the region so soon after the last epidemic.
“We now have cases not only in Cwmtawe School but also in two primary schools, a further education college and a nursery - and in all of these places there are unvaccinated children and young people who could easily catch and spread measles,” he said.
“Parents who have decided not to vaccinate their children are not only risking their children’s health, but are putting other children at risk, children either too young to be vaccinated or with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.
“We are very frustrated to see more cases of measles in the area so soon after the large outbreak earlier this year.
“We are very keen for this to be stopped before it can get any bigger and we return to a position where children are admitted to hospital or die or are damaged by the disease.
“The only way to achieve that is through vaccination and I urge parents whose children have not received two doses of MMR to ensure that they speak to their GP immediately to arrange this quick, safe and effective vaccine.”
A massive programme to inoculate thousands of children was launched in the same area back in the spring as it battled what became a measles epidemic.
Large numbers of previously unprotected children were given their first MMR jab, but many subsequently did not get the booster within a month.
Although there are no other reported cases of measles at present, PHW is reminding all parents in Wales that their children are at risk if not fully vaccinated with two doses of MMR.
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