Further cases of measles have been reported in England today, bringing the total number to 122 since the outbreak began last year.
According to data from Public Heath England (PHE), as of 9 January, there had been 34 confirmed cases in West Yorkshire, 29 in Cheshire and Liverpool, 32 in the West Midlands, 20 in Surrey and seven in Greater Manchester.
“The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe”
There have been 23 new cases – in four out of the five regions – since the national public health body last published an update on 19 December.
However, the rate of new cases seems to be slowing. Previously there were 24 new cases between 14 and 19 December and, prior to that, 39 new cases between 29 November and 14 December. The cases in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks of measles in Europe.
Those in England are mostly among people who have not been vaccinated against the virus, a Public Heath England spokeswoman told Nursing Times.
Children and young people who have not received two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are at risk, highlighted PHE. Unvaccinated people travelling to Romania and Italy, where there are currently large outbreaks of measles, are at particularly high risk, it warned.
In regions of England where there had been cases of measles, PHE said it was raising awareness and actively offering vaccination to those who missed out – either by recalling them through their GP or by targeting schools or communities with low uptakes.
“This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children”
Letters had been sent to nursing groups about the outbreaks and the action to take, the PHE spokeswoman added.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe.
“People who have recently travelled, or are planning to travel to Romania, Italy and Germany and have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk” she said.
Dr Ramsay added: “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.
“Children and young adults 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,” she said.
Dr Ramsay noted that the overall risk of measles to the UK population was low, but that the ongoing outbreaks in Europe meant it was possible the virus could be passed on in communities with low uptake of the vaccine.
In September, there were reports of a slight decline in the proportion of children that had the MMR vaccine by the age of two, compared with the year before.
Figures from NHS Digital showed MMR coverage among two-year-olds fell to 91.6% in 2016-17 compared with 91.9% in 2015-16. The target set by the World Health Organization is 95%.