Medics on alert over measles

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HEALTH bosses are said to be ‘seriously concerned’ about the threat posed to youngsters in the borough from measles.

Outbreaks elsewhere in the country have put medics on alert for people displaying symptoms of the condition, which in some cases can be fatal.

Although often seen as a minor condition, there is no cure for measles once it has been contracted and hundreds have already been hospitalised elsewhere in the country.

It can be vaccinated against by children being up to date with their MMR immunisations as the Health Protection Agency (HPA) say the disease is mainly spreading among unvaccinated schoolchildren.

Parents are being urged to make sure their children have the required two doses of the MMR vaccine - the first at 12 months and the second dose at around three years and four months.

Dr Paul Turner, Consultant in Public Health for the Borough of Wigan said: “Measles can be a very serious disease as is evident from the BBC report about measles in the North East of England where about a quarter of cases were hospitalised. Within Wigan Borough we are seeing an increasing number of cases of measles.”

Dr Turner gives the following advice for parents worried about measles:

Parents, please ensure that your child receives their MMR immunisations when they are invited.  The first dose is given at around 13 months and the second dose is given after three years and four months of age.  It is very important that your child is up to date with their MMR immunisations when they start nursery or primary school.  If they are not protected and there is a case of measles at the nursery or school then your child will be at very high risk of catching measles as measles is extremely infections.  Many nurseries look after children that are under the age of 12 months and are too young to have had their first MMR dose.  They can only be protected in the nursery setting if there is a high uptake of MMR in older children at the nursery.

If you work with children, for example at a school or a nursery or as a child minder, you can help protect the children in your care by ensuring that you are also protected against measles.  Most people born in the 1950s or 1960s will have had measles.  Those born in the 1970s and 1980s may have had a measles containing vaccine.  MMR immunisations commenced in 1988.  If you are unsure whether you are protected you should be able to check your immunisation history with your General Practice.  

It is particularly important that women of childbearing age are protected, not only against measles but also against rubella, as both these disease can affect the unborn baby, sometimes severely.  MMR vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.  Therefore, it is important that women are protected before they become pregnant.  Again, if you are unsure whether you are protected then check with your general practice.

If you are pregnant and in future you are in contact with someone that has measles and you have had two doses of MMR vaccine in the past then you are adequately protected.  If not, then immediately seek advice from you midwife or GP.  If you have had antenatal booking bloods taken then they can arrange to have these tested for your measles immunity. The result will determine whether further action is needed to protect you and your baby.

Further information on measles and the MMR vaccine can be found at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles