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Protect your family from measles amid new outbreaks

Amid a rise in measles cases across England, and outbreaks in the West Midlands, Birmingham and London, St Helens Borough Council is encouraging residents to take up the MMR vaccination if they haven't already.

Child and adult holding hand

Article date: 24 January 2024

Further outbreaks of measles will spread to other towns and cities unless urgent action is taken to increase MMR vaccination uptake in areas at greatest risk, the UK Health Security Agency's Chief Executive, Dame Jenny Harries has warned.

Birmingham and the West Midlands, has seen 133 measles cases in the last three months alone, equalling the total number of measles seen in the whole of England between 2020 and 2022.

Measles is a highly contagious illness, easily passed on through coughs and sneezes and as such can spread easily in shared public spaces, such as schools, colleges and universities. Measles is more infectious than Covid-19, even brief contact with an infected person can be enough to catch the disease if you have not been vaccinated against measles or had measles in the past

Complications from measles include pneumonia, ear infections and inflammation of the brain, which can unfortunately be fatal or lead to long-term disability in rare cases. People who have never received the MMR vaccine or have compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of severe disease outcomes. If you get measles when you're pregnant, it could harm your baby

The first symptoms of measles include:

·       High fever

·       Sore, red, watery eyes

·       Coughing

·       Aching and feeling generally unwell

After a few days:

·       Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips

·       A blotchy red brown rash, which starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body

As measles can spread to others easily, call your GP surgery before you go in. They may suggest talking over the phone. You can also call 111 or get help from 111 online.

The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has been part of the UK national vaccination programme since 1988 and has been shown to give up to 99% effective lifelong protection.

The current two-dose MMR jab was first used in 1996, but false concerns over a link with autism led to vaccination hesitancy among parents of young children, resulting in a higher risk today, especially among 18-25 year-olds some of whom were not vaccinated then. Extensive studies have been undertaken since and found the vaccine is both safe and effective.

Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said:

"There is real concern among public health officials that the outbreaks we've seen in other parts of the country could spread where vaccination uptake is low, particularly among those who were young in the late 90s when claims were made to have found the explanation for autism in the measles virus and vaccine, claims which were later proven to be categorically false.

"Measles vaccinations were introduced in the UK in 1968 and are estimated to have prevented 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths. The MMR vaccination is the best defence against what can typically be a very unpleasant and highly contagious illness that can lead to some severe and debilitative complications.

"If you are unsure about your vaccination status, please check your health record or contact your GP, who can offer any missed vaccinations. If you haven't been vaccinated for MMR before, you can be vaccinated for free at any age with two doses, one month apart. There are no known risks from having an additional second course of the vaccine if you or your GP are unsure of your status."

If you would like to learn more the MMR vaccine or how to spot signs and symptoms of measles, please refer to

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Last modified on 24 January 2024