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Measles

The UK Health Security Agency has noted a significant increase in measles infections in England in 2023, resulting in the highest number of cases seen in 4 years. Both London and the West Midlands have reported large outbreaks over the course of the last year, most recently in Birmingham and the West Midlands, which saw 216 measles cases in the last three months alone, widely surpassing the total number of cases seen in the whole of England between 2020 and 2022.

Child and adult holding hand

Measles Myths & Facts

Measles is a highly contagious illness, easily passed on through coughs and sneezes and is particularly dangerous in shared public spaces, such as colleges and universities. Even brief contact with an infected person can be enough to catch the disease if you have not been vaccinated against 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 while you are pregnant, it could harm your baby.

It is therefore important that you familiarise yourself with these symptoms:

The first symptoms of measles include:After a few days, symptoms include:
  • High fever
  • Sore, red watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Aching and feeling generally unwell
  • 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

 

If you think you or your child may have measles, telephone your GP surgery or ring NHS 111 (or online at https://111.nhs.uk). As measles can spread to others easily, call your GP surgery before you attend if you do need to be seen.

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 safety of the vaccine has been constantly monitored since its introduction and there have been no links identified with serious adverse reactions or unwanted effects throughout this period.

According to the World Health Organisation, the MMR vaccine has saved an estimated 17.1 million lives worldwide since the year 2000, with over 500 million doses given across 100 countries in the last forty years. It is estimated that the introduction of the vaccine has prevented 20 million cases of measles in the UK.

The MMR vaccine continues to be the best protection against potential measles outbreaks in schools, colleges and workplaces.

If you are unsure about your status, please check your vaccination 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 a potential 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 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/.