9 January 2009
The Health Protection Agency North West has renewed its plea to parents to ensure that children are protected by two doses of MMR vaccine after new figures (published today) show that the region had the highest number of confirmed cases of measles in England in October and November 2008.
The data reveals that in the first 11 months of 2008 the North West had more confirmed measles cases than any other region outside London, with 152 cases to the capital's 652. However, in October and November, 62 cases were recorded in the North West compared to 56 in London.
Professor Qutub Syed, Director of HPA North West, said: "Our figures were inflated by a major outbreak of measles in Central and Eastern Cheshire in October and November and earlier in the year we had outbreaks in Lancashire, Merseyside and the Manchester area. We also had sporadic cases elsewhere in the region.
"That is why it is so important for parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated with MMR at age 13 months and again before going to school. We also need to keep reminding parents that it is not too late to have older unprotected children vaccinated. Anyone up to the age of 18 is entitled to contact their family doctor and ask for MMR vaccination and it is important that they should do so.
"Measles is highly infectious and it can spread like wildfire when it gets into unprotected communities. It can have serious side effects including fits, chest infections, meningitis, encephalitis, and in extreme cases even death."
Today's figures show that 1,217 confirmed measles cases were reported in England and Wales in the first 11 months of 2008. Disturbingly these statistics are published only days after an international survey revealed that the UK has the highest rate of measles infection in children under 4, of all developed countries.
Note to editors
Measles is an infectious viral illness that at one time affected up to 800,000 people annually in the UK. Since the introduction of measles vaccine, and especially since the introduction of MMR vaccine in 1988, the number of cases has reduced dramatically.
However, a fall in MMR uptake rates in recent years has left a cohort of older children and teenagers unprotected and measles is currently spreading amongst them.
Classic symptoms of measles are fever, cough, red and painful eyes, swollen glands, loss of appetite and a rash that tends to follow 3-4 days after the onset of symptoms.
Most people recover from measles without too many problems, but a significant number develop complications. These may include:
Further information is available from:
Press release issued by Hugh Lamont, Communications Manager, HPA North West, tel. 0151-482-5728 or 07764-906508
Last reviewed: 9 January 2009