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More ‘aggressive’ approach needed to beat measles

Health officials in Wales say a more “aggressive” approach is needed if measles is to be eradicated.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said there are around 30,000 people aged between 10 and 18 in Wales who still have not received the MMR vaccine - and warned it could lead to a fresh epidemic.

Between November 2012 and July 2013, more than 1,200 cases of measles were reported in the principality, which was the UK’s biggest outbreak of the disease since the introduction of the MMR.

A total of 88 people were admitted to hospital. A 25-year-old man from Swansea who contracted the disease died.

Over the past few weeks, a senior public health doctor voiced his frustration with a second outbreak occurring only months after the last one was declared over.

A new report - produced by the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda Health Board and Powys health boards - has said there needed to be “a policy of aggressive control of measles cases”.

Among its 16 recommendations included excluding unimmunised children from school who had come into close contact of probable cases.

It also said young people should be targeted directly through the use of social media as well as other channels, and schools should start immunisation sessions within two days of a case occurring if vaccination levels are low.

PHW’s director of health protection Marion Lyons said the only guarantee against catching measles was receiving the full two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Dr Lyons added: “While we have 30,000 children and young people still needing vaccination, we can’t assume we will not see further outbreaks of this scale.

“With 88 people being admitted to hospital and one dying during this outbreak, it’s clear that measles is a serious illness and no parent or young person should believe it cannot happen to them.”

Earlier this month, PHW’s consultant in communicable disease control Jorg Hoffmann said one child with measles sitting in a classroom for just one hour would lead to at least 70% of other pupils who are not vaccinated catching measles.

Dr Hoffman 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 and 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.”

 

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