A “national incident” was declared last month by health chiefs after more than 300 cases of measles were confirmed in the UK, and that number is now at 465 in just a few weeks
More than 100 cases of life-changing disease measles have been recorded in England in the last week, official government figures show.
Since the last update just a week ago, a further 118 laboratory confirmed measles cases have been recorded, bringing the total number of cases confirmed since October 1, 2023 to 465. A disproportionately high rate of these continue to be seen in the West Midlands, with a sharp rise in case numbers over the last six weeks, mainly driven by cases in Birmingham.
A “national incident” was declared last month by health chiefs after more than 300 cases of measles were confirmed. That number is now at 465. Officials warn that the recent fall in those having their MMR vaccine could be putting children at risk. The outbreak comes as the MMR uptake numbers fell during the Covid pandemic, amid nationwide school closures, the diversion of trained people giving vaccines diverted to administer coronavirus jabs, and the general anti-vaccine attitude after the pandemic.
In Birmingham, council officials have written to parents warning them of the situation. The letter from Birmingham City Council said, which was sent out as children returned from the Christmas break, read: “Anyone unvaccinated who is exposed to someone with measles may be advised to isolate for three weeks. This would disrupt their learning or work and could happen repeatedly.”
Young children are offered one MMR vaccine after their first birthday and the second before they start school, usually at around 3 years and 4 months. The World Health Organization recommended around a 95% uptake to protect those who are too young to have the vaccine.
From the NHS:
Measles is an infection that spreads very easily and can cause serious problems in some people. Having the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it.
Check if you or your child has measles
Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.
The first symptoms of measles include:
- a high temperature
- a runny or blocked nose
- a cough
- red, sore, watery eyes
Spots in the mouth
Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later. These spots usually last a few days.
The measles rash
A rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms.
The rash starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body.
The spots of the measles rash are sometimes raised and join together to form blotchy patches.
The rash looks brown or red on white skin. It may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
If you’re not sure it’s measles
It’s very unlikely to be measles if you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine or you’ve had measles before.
Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
- you think you or your child may have measles
- you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’ve not had measles before or you’ve not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine
- you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’re pregnant – measles can be serious in pregnancy
- you have a weakened immune system and think you have measles or have been in close contact with someone with measles
Measles can spread to others easily. Call your GP surgery before you go in. They may suggest talking over the phone.
You can also call 111 or get help from 111 online.
In England, 17 cases were reported in October, 42 in November, 161 in December, 240 in January 2024 and 5 in February. 71% (329/465) of these cases have been in the West Midlands, 13% (62/465) in London and 7% (32/465) in Yorkshire and The Humber. The remaining cases were reported in other regions of England.
The majority (306/465, 66%) of these cases are in children under the age of 10 and 25% (115/465) in young people and adults over the age of 15.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist, said: “ The measles outbreak in the West Midlands continues to be a concern. MMR vaccine uptake has been falling over the last decade with 1 out of 10 children starting school in England not protected. Measles is highly infectious and there is a real risk it will spread to other areas.
“Parents should be aware that measles is a nasty illness for most children and sadly for some can be very serious and life changing, but it is completely preventable. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your children. I strongly urge parents to take up the offer as soon as possible and protect their child now.”