PARENTS are urged to get their children vaccinated against measles following an outbreak in central and eastern Cheshire.
The MMR vaccine has been offered to more than 10,500 children and teenagers in that part of the county in an attempt to curtail the outbreak.
There are now 68 reported cases in Cheshire and 19 have been confirmed by laboratory tests. The majority of the remaining cases are “probable” measles.
Most of the reported measles cases are in Sandbach, Middlewich and Crewe, but there have also been reports from Congleton, Nantwich and Winsford.
The Health Protection Agency fears measles could sweep the UK unless vulnerable children and teenagers are vaccinated as a matter of urgency.
Dr Rosemary McCann, the HPA’s North West Immunisation Lead, said: “Britain is on the cusp of a measles epidemic because a large cohort of children and teenagers missed out on MMR vaccination over the past five to 10 years and measles is now spreading amongst them.
“We’ve had large outbreaks in Lancashire and Cheshire and smaller ones in Liverpool and Greater Manchester with sporadic cases reported elsewhere in the region. We must do all we can to halt this threat by encouraging the parents and guardians of unprotected children to arrange for vaccination by their family doctors.
“The ideal situation is for children to be given a dose of MMR vaccine at age one with a booster before reaching school age. However, it is not too late for older children and teenagers who missed out previously to be vaccinated. In fact, it is essential to get these older children protected if we are to avoid a measles epidemic.
“Anyone up to the age of 18 who is currently unprotected against measles, mumps and rubella should arrange vaccination through their family doctors.”
Dr. Sam Ghebrehewet, the HPA’s lead for Cheshire and Merseyside, said: “Measles is not an illness to be taken lightly. It can be very serious. It can cause complications such as meningitis and encephalitis. On rare occasions, it can kill. Anyone with concerns or seeking information about the MMR campaign should consult their family doctor.”
Measles is an infectious viral illness that at one time used to affect up to 800,000 people every year. Since the introduction of measles vaccine, and especially since the introduction of MMR vaccine in 1988, the numbers of cases have reduced dramatically.
Classic symptoms of measles are: fever, cough, red and painful eyes, swollen glands, loss of appetite and a rash, which tends to follow 3-4 days after the onset of the previously described symptoms.
Most people will recover from measles without too many problems, but a significant number will develop complications.
Further information is available from: www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk