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Plea For Parents To Protect Children Against Measles

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Public health experts are asking parents to protect their children with two doses of MMR vaccine after three further suspected cases of measles were reported bringing the total number of cases in North East Manchester and Oldham to 10.

Six of the cases are in North East Manchester and four are in Oldham. The patients range in age from one to 17 years. Three needed treatment in hospital but have now recovered sufficiently to return home.

Dr. Rosemary McCann, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the Health Protection Agency, said: “It’s of concern that we have three more suspected cases. Measles can be very serious with a potential for severe side effects. In rare cases it can kill. It should never be dismissed as a simple childhood illness and the only sure way for parents to protect their children from it is by giving them two doses of MMR vaccine.

“Ideally children should be vaccinated at the age of 13 months and given a booster before starting school, but our message to children and teenagers who were not vaccinated at the appropriate time is that it is not too late. We are advising parents that if their child has missed one or both doses of MMR, they should contact their GP to arrange vaccination.”

Dr Sally Bradley, Director of Public Health for Manchester, said: “We know that in North East Manchester, as in Oldham and in other parts of the country, up to one third of children and teenagers have not had two doses of MMR vaccine.

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“We’ve been offering catch-up clinics for older children for some time and working hard with GPs to make sure that younger children get the vaccinations they need. We are now redoubling our efforts to get the message across to parents and teenagers that they can still be protected. It just needs a phone call to their GP.”

Six of the 10 reported cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing. The other four are probable cases. These are the first confirmed cases of measles in Greater Manchester this year. Last year there were 25 confirmed cases in the county.

Measles is an infectious viral illness that is spread by droplets in the air when infected people cough or sneeze. The following symptoms are commonly seen in measles infection:

* Fever
* Cough
* Sore and watering eyes
* Widespread rash that develops 3-4 days after the onset of the illness, starting with the face and head and spreading down the body.

Although most people will get over measles without too many problems, a significant number will develop complications including ear infection, diarrhoea, pneumonia or meningitis.

Complications are more likely in those who have a weakened immune system or in infants under the age of 1 year. Measles can also cause problems in pregnancy. People in these categories who are recent contacts of a definite case of measles and who are not immune may be offered vaccination.

Since the introduction of measles vaccine, and especially since the introduction of MMR vaccine in 1988, numbers of cases have reduced to low levels. However, during the past year there have been isolated outbreaks in parts of the country where uptake of the vaccine was low.



Why is a second dose of MMR necessary? About 2%-5% of persons do not develop measles immunity after the first dose of vaccine. This occurs for a variety of reasons. The second dose is to provide another chance to develop measles immunity for persons who did not respond to the first dose. If you can give the second dose of MMR as early as 28 days after the first dose, why do we routinely wait until kindergarten entry to give the second dose? The second dose of MMR may be given as early as a month after the first dose, and be counted as a valid dose if both doses were given after the first birthday. It is convenient to give the second dose at school entry, since the child will have an immunization visit for other school entry vaccines. The risk of measles is higher in school-age children than those of preschool age, so it is important to receive the second dose by school entry. The second dose is not a "booster"; it is intended to produce immunity in the small number of persons who fail to respond to the first dose. [end quote] Parents can ask their doctors for a titers blood test to determine if their children developed immunity the first time they were administered the MMR between 12-18 months. Jennifer Morgan-Byrd National Autism Association of Florida [email protected]