THE Health Protection Agency (HPA) is urging parents to immunise their children with two doses of MMR vaccine.
The advice comes after figures show the number of confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales has already soared past the total for the whole of 2006.
Statistics show that up to October 31 there were 768 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales, compared to 756 during the whole of last year.
In the North West region so far this year, there have been 384 notifications of measles by GPs and others, but just 20 have been confirmed by laboratory testing. Seventeen of the 20 confirmed cases were in Greater Manchester.
Dr Rosemary McCann, HPA North West’s immunisation lead, said: “While the number of confirmed cases in this region has been comparatively small, we can’t be complacent about the figures.
“It is vitally important for all children to have two doses of MMR vaccine before reaching school age to ensure they have lifelong protection against these three potentially serious illnesses.”
Dr McCann added: “If children missed out on MMR before school age, it is never too late to ensure they are protected. Even teenagers and young adults of university age should think seriously about having an MMR jab if they are unprotected against measles, mumps and rubella.
“Measles is a serious illness that in rare cases can kill or cause serious complications such as meningitis or encephalitis. MMR is a safe and proven vaccine and I would advise all parents to ensure that their children have the lifelong protection it affords.”
Latest figures show that 88% of North West children who reached the age of two years in the period April 1 to June 30 this year had been given a first dose of MMR vaccine and 74% of children who reached the age of five in the same period had received two doses.
“These are very encouraging figures, which indicate a continuing improvement in MMR uptake,” Dr McCann said.
“However, we are still some way short of our target goal, which is to ensure that 95% of children have been given two doses of MMR vaccine by age five. If we can achieve that uptake rate, we will be well on the way towards eliminating measles with all the nasty side-effects it can bring in its wake.”