Health officials have urged parents to immunise their children against measles as a potentially deadly virus is spreading across the country.

Public Health England have confirmed that the outbreak has now spread to five regions in England – with 29 cases in Cheshire and Liverpool, 34 in West Yorkshire, 32 in the West Midlands, 20 in Surrey and Sussex and seven in Greater Manchester.

The Chronicle asked a Public Health England (PHE) North West spokesperson to specify which areas of Cheshire were affected but was told this information could not be divulged.

Measles, also called Rubeola, is best known for its typical skin rash although it is primarily a respiratory infection

However, Dr Mary Ramsey, head of immunisation at PHE, believes the measles outbreak in England has come from Europe as people travel to regions experiencing epidemics, such as Germany, Italy and Romania.

She said that in order to avoid an epidemic in the UK, parents should vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

"The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe," Dr Ramsey explained.

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"People who have recently travelled, or are planning to travel to Romania, Italy and Germany and have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk.

"Children and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch-up."

Complications after contracting measles are relatively common and can range from diarrhea to more serious things such as pneumonia.

The groups that are at high risk of complications are young children, adults over 20 years old, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.

Measles symptoms

People with measles often mistake the illness for a cold when symptoms first begin.

These symptoms are usually followed by a measles rash.

Seven to 10 days after being infected, the NHS say sufferers will likely develop these indicators:

  • A blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Swollen, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • A high temperature, which may reach around 40C
  • Small greyish-white spots in the mouth
  • Aches and pains
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite tiredness
  • General lack of energy
  • Spots in the mouth
  • Rash

Just before the measles rash appears on the skin, many patients will develop small greyish-white spots in their mouth that last for a few days.

Not everyone with measles has the spots, but if someone has them in addition to the other symptoms, it's highly likely they have the infection.

The measles rash appears around two to four days after the initial symptoms and is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches.

It usually first appears on the head or neck, before spreading to the rest of the body.

Patients usually feel most ill on the first or second day after the rash develops.

When should you seek medical advice?

  • You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles
  • It's best to phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others
  • You should also see your GP if you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you've not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven't had the infection before – even if you don't have any symptoms