Measles Cases Continue To Increase In England, Wales

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1, 217 cases of confirmed measles have been reported to the Health Protection Agency up to the end of November 2008.

Dr Mary Ramsay, an immunisation expert at the Health Protection Agency, said:

"We are still seeing a continued increase in measles cases across England and Wales. This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully protected with MMR. This means that measles, which is highly infectious, is spreading easily among these unvaccinated children."

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"The Agency is concerned that we may see measles epidemics take hold. We again are urging parents to get their children vaccinated. Although MMR coverage is starting to improve, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk."

The recently announced MMR catch up programme, which urged Primary Care Trusts and GPs to identify individuals not up to date with their MMR and offer catch-up immunisation to reduce the risk of a measles epidemic, is the perfect opportunity to ensure that children are protected against the infection.

Dr Mary Ramsay went on to say: "We are glad to see that public confidence in the MMR vaccine is now high with more than 8 out of 10 children receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday.

"But we shouldn't forget that the children who weren't vaccinated many years ago are at real risk. Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis, even in healthy children. It is highly infectious and can be passed on without direct contact before the rash appears.

"This is why it's incredibly important to continue to remind parents about the benefits of having their children vaccinated with two doses of MMR for optimum protection. It is never too late to get vaccinated."

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