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Number of measles cases still rising in Swansea outbreak

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The Welsh measles epidemic that has prompted hundreds of parents to queue for emergency vaccinations shows no signs of slowing down, health officials have confirmed.

The number of confirmed cases of the disease in south-west Wales has now reached 620 - an increase of more than 30 since last Friday.

Over the weekend, the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board staged drop-in sessions for people who had not been immunised.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said it was pleased with the “excellent response” to its recent publicity campaigns.

However, the organisation is warning 6,000 children in the Swansea area still have not received their measles jab.

PHW’s director of health protection Marion Lyons said: “The response to the special vaccination clinics held in the Swansea area over the weekend was excellent, with a total of 1,726 children vaccinated.

“We are delighted to see parents responding so positively to the outbreak and understanding that measles can be a severe illness and two doses of MMR is the only protection.

“We need to see this level of response continuing in the coming weeks if we are to bring this outbreak under control.

“However, we know that around 6,000 children in the Swansea area alone are still not fully vaccinated against measles, and we cannot be confident that the outbreak will not continue to grow with so many children still at risk from this very contagious and potentially fatal disease.”

Typical symptoms of measles include fever, cough, conjunctivitis and a rash.

Complications are quite common even in healthy people, and about 20% of reported measles cases experience one or more complications. These can include ear infections, vomiting and diarrhoea, pneumonia, meningitis and serious eye disorders.

Before the introduction of the MMR jab in 1988, about half a million children caught measles each year in the UK. Approximately 100 of those died.

However, concerns over the jab’s safety were raised in the late 1990s when a surgeon published a since discredited paper suggesting MMR was linked to an increased risk of autism.

While the latest epidemic is based in Swansea, cases have continued to be reported across Wales.

Most are in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health region, which also includes Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend.

Cases have also been found in Powys and in the Hywel Dda Health Board area - which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

With not enough “herd immunity” - health officials fear it is “just a matter of time” before a child is left with serious and permanent complications.

To prevent the spread of the illness, PHW has issued advice via its website - which includes urging parents to “make immediate arrangements” with their GP if their child’s immunisation is not up to date.

Dr Lyons added: “Unvaccinated children aged between six and 12 months living in or travelling to the outbreak areas of Swansea and Neath-Port Talbot can be offered vaccination by their GP.

“There’s no adverse effect to this extra jab and those children would still need to receive the recommended two doses at 13 months and three years and four months of age.”


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