Primary care nurses have been advised to ensure patients – particularly those travelling to France – are vaccinated with MMR following a dramatic rise in measles cases this year.
The Health Protection Agency has warned that 334 cases of measles had been confirmed in England and Wales by the end of April. This compares to a total of 374 cases for the whole of 2010.
The majority of cases have been reported in London and the South East – 104 and 103 respectively. There have also been 46 recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Across Europe there have been 9,349 cases, according to the European Surveillance Network for Vaccine-preventable Diseases. The majority, 78%, have been in France.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the HPA’s immunisation department, said: “We again are reminding parents and young adults of the importance of immunisation. Although MMR coverage has improved over the last few years, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal.”
Latest UK figures show 89.4% of children had received their first dose of MMR by the age of two – representing a steady recovery in uptake since the vaccine became the centre of negative publicity in 1998, but is still under the 95% recommended by the World Health Organization.
Royal College of Nursing children’s and young people’s adviser Fiona Smith said nurses working in primary care settings – including school nurses and health visitors – should ensure they were familiar with the signs and symptoms of measles.
She also highlighted the need for nurses to ensure patients going abroad, especially those visiting France, were up to date with MMR vaccination.