28 November 2008
There have been 1,049 cases of confirmed measles in England and Wales up to the end of October 2008 surpassing last year's total of 990 cases.
Dr Mary Ramsay, an immunisation expert at the HPA, said:
"Over the last few years we have seen an unprecedented increase in measles cases and we are still receiving reports of cases across the country.
"1,049 is the highest number of measles cases recorded in England and Wales since the current method of monitoring the disease was introduced in 1995.
"This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully vaccinated with MMR. This means that measles is spreading easily among unvaccinated children."
"There is now a real risk of a large measles epidemic. These children are susceptible to not only measles but to mumps and rubella as well."
In August, the Chief Medical Officer announced a MMR catch up programme, which urged Primary Care Trusts and GPs to identify individuals not up to date with their MMR and offer catch-up immunisation to reduce the risk of a measles epidemic.
The initiative was based on recent modelling research carried out by the Agency, examining the potential for measles transmission in England, suggested that there is now a real risk of a large measles outbreak of between approximately 30,000 to 100,000 cases - the majority in London.
Dr Mary Ramsay went on to say, "We are glad to see that public confidence in the MMR vaccine is now high with more than 8 out of 10 children receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday.
"But we shouldn't forget that the children who weren't vaccinated many years ago are at real risk. Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, even in healthy children. It is highly infectious it can be passed on without direct contact before the rash appears. This is why it's incredibly important to continue to remind parents about the benefits of having their child vaccinated with two doses of MMR for optimum protection. It is never too late to get vaccinated."
Notes to Editors:
1. To access the latest report on confirmed measles in England and Wales up to the end of October 2008 use the following link: http://www.hpa.org.uk/webw/HPAweb&Page&HPAwebAutoListName/Page/1191942172782?p=1191942172782
2. Figures for confirmed measles up to end of October 2008 in the UK are as follows:
North West - 106
North East - 9
South East - 76
South West - 29
East of England - 62
East Midlands - 23
West Midlands - 40
Yorkshire and Humberside - 45
London - 626
Wales - 32
Unknown region - 1
3. The latest uptake of MMR is for children aged two and five years of age in April - June 2008. Uptake of one dose for the UK by age 2 is 83.6%. The number of pre-school children receiving both doses of MMR by their fifth birthday is 76.4%.
4. For further information on the MMR vaccination catch up programme, visit the Department of Health website at http://www.dh.gov.uk/AboutUs/Ministersanddepartmentleaders/ChiefMedicalOfficer/CMOPublications/CMOLetters/fs/en
5. For Health Protection Agency media enquiries please contact the Agency's Centre for Infections Press Office on:
David Daley 020 8327 6647
Kate Swan 020 8327 7097
Louise Brown 020 8327 7080
George Fletcher 020 8327 6690
Last reviewed: 28 November 2008