Data released today by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show that measles cases have been steadily increasing this year. A new risk assessment also indicates the possibility of a measles outbreak, notably in London.
In 2022, 54 instances of measles were reported for the entire year, but in the first six months of 2023, 128 cases of measles were reported, with London accounting for 66% of these cases.
According to the agency’s projections, London could suffer a measles outbreak, with tens of thousands of cases predicted to spread around the city.
The danger in London, according to the UKHSA, is primarily owing to low vaccination rates over several years, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in some locations and groups where coverage of the first MMR dose at 2 years of age is as low as 69.5%.
Furthermore, while most children are fully protected with both MMR doses, one in ten five-year-olds in England are not – and in some areas of London, up to two in five children are unprotected. This is less than the 95% suggested by the World Health Organisation to ensure herd immunity.
Symptoms and treatment for measles
According to NHS Inform, the first symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you’re infected. These can include:
- cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
- sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
- watery eyes
- swollen eyes
- a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40°C (104°F)
- small greyish-white spots in the mouth
- aches and pains
- loss of appetite
- tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy
The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and normally fades after about a week. The rash:
- is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches
- usually first appears on the head or neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body
- is slightly itchy for some people
Measles is a virus that spreads very easily and can cause serious complications such as meningitis and sepsis – with one in every five cases requiring a hospital visit.
There is no specific treatment for measles and the best you patients can do is manage the symptoms with painkillers, cold compresses, being in darkened rooms, and staying hydrated.
For the best possible protection against measles, both doses of the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine is essential.
Parents and guardians urged to check child’s red book
The NHS is urging all families to find out their children’s MMR vaccination status by checking their child’s red book and contacting their GP practise to catch up on any missing MMR doses. They’ve partnered up with Dr Sara Kayat:
“Speaking as both a doctor and a mum, the MMR vaccine is the best possible way to keep our children safe and healthy. So, I am urging parents and guardians to check your child’s red book to make sure your child is fully vaccinated against this disease.
“Two doses of the MMR vaccine is all it takes to give the best protection against the illness and by preventing the spread of measles we can ensure everyone can safely enjoy their holidays both at home and abroad.”
The NHS additionally advises that parents should check their own vaccination records and make an appointment to catch up on any potentially missed doses.