Cheshire teenagers heading to music festivals this summer are at risk of getting measles after a significant rise in cases.
Public Health England is urging young people to make sure they are vaccinated and to avoid going to festivals altogether if they are showing symptoms.
Measles is a highly infectious virus, which causes a rash and cold-like symptoms that usually clear up after a week. But in some cases it can lead to life-threatening complications. The advice comes ahead of V Festival, which attracts music fans from Cheshire to its Staffordshire site.
Immunisation rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) are now at record highs, but the number of children getting vaccinated fell sharply after former physician Andrew Wakefield claimed there was a link between MMR and autism, in a 1998 research paper. His claims have now been completely discredited, but a number of children were left vulnerable after worried parents decided not to take the risk.
This year, 234 cases were confirmed between January and June, compared with 54 for the same period last year. In June and July alone, 38 suspected measles cases were reported in people who attended festivals.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. So, if you think you might have measles, please don’t go to any of these big events.
"Measles isn’t common these days because most of us are vaccinated, but young people who missed their MMR jab as children are vulnerable, especially if gathered in large numbers at an event. If you think you’ve got it, call your GP or NHS 111. Please don’t turn up at the surgery or at A&E as you could infect other patients.”
What to look out for
Initial symptoms include:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Sore, red eyes that might be sensitive to light
- High temperature, which may reach 40C
- Small grey-ish white spots in the mouth, lasting a few days
- Aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness, irritability and lack of energy
- Usually appears two to four days after the initial symptoms
- Made up of small, red-brown spots that are flat or slightly raised
- May join together into larger blotchy patches
- Usually appears first on the head or neck, before spreading to the rest of the body
- Sometimes slightly itchy
- Fades after about a week
- Unlikely to be measles if the person has been fully vaccinated, or had measles before
When to seek medical advice
- As soon as you suspect your child has measles, even if you’re not completely sure
- If you have been in close contact with someone who has measles, and you haven’t been fully vaccinated or had the infection before - even if you’re not displaying symptoms
Phone your GP first, as they may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection
If you aren't sure whether you, or a family member has been vaccinated, your GP may be able to find out. If they can't, make an appointment for an MMR jab to ensure you are protected. You will need two doses, one month apart. Find out more at www.nhs.uk