24 June 2011
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that 496* laboratory confirmed cases of measles have been reported in England and Wales up to the end of May 2011, surpassing the annual 2010 total of 374 cases.
Immunisation data released by the HPA today shows that UK uptake rates for MMR in children aged two reached 90 per cent in the first quarter of this year- the highest level for 13 years. This is a 0.6 per cent increase from the previous quarter. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and six English regions (North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and South Central) achieved at least 90 per cent coverage.
Children who received their first dose of MMR vaccine by the age of 5 in the UK remained stable at 92.8%. MMR coverage for two doses in children aged five increased by 0.3 per cent between January to March 2011 to 85.1 per cent, compared to the previous quarter.
The new cases of measles this year are predominately in children and adults under 19 years of age and the vast majority are unvaccinated. Measles cases have been associated with small clusters in universities, schools or families or associated with travel abroad. Other European countries have also seen increases in measles cases in recent months with over 11,000 cases reported across 35 European countries in the first four months of the year.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the immunisation department at the HPA, said: "We're very encouraged to see that UK MMR uptake has reached 90 per cent in children aged two indicating increasing levels of trust by parents in the immunisation programme. We're on the way to reaching our goal of 95 per cent uptake. But anyone who missed out on MMR as a child will continue to be at risk of measles, which explains why we are seeing these new cases in a broad age range."
"It's that time of year when children are travelling on school trips and family holidays and we are reminding parents and young adults of the importance of immunisation before they travel. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal."
"Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily. Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised."
1. Number of laboratory confirmed measles cases in England and Wales, Jan-May 2011 by region:
London - 173
South East - 144
Yorkshire and Humber - 54
South West - 41
North West - 29
West Midlands - 24
East Midlands - 8
East of England - 15
North East - 2
Wales - 6
Total - 496*
*The 496 total of measles cases reported to the HPA is a provisional total and final numbers are likely to be higher.
2. HPA immunisation information for those going to summer camps is available from the HPA website.
Frequently asked Questions on measles and travel [PDF] can be found from the measles guidelines pages.
3. National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) advice on measles risk during travel is available [external link].
4. Latest UK quarterly figures for MMR uptake: January to March 2011
5. Between January - May 2010, 90 laboratory confirmed cases of measles were reported to the HPA.
6. By the end of April 2011, 35 Member States had reported over 11,000 confirmed measles cases to the World Health Organization (WHO). Further information can be found from the WHO site [external PDF].
7. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. Visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk.
8. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.
Last reviewed: 31 July 2012