Health chiefs in measles plea

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THE measles epidemic could see babies being offered the MMR jab seven months earlier than recommended.

Hundreds of cases have been confirmed in the region over the past few months and now health chiefs are considering offering babies the MMR vaccine early to help combat the virus.

Concerns have been raised by GPs and there have been 64 confirmed cases so far this year in Wigan say the North West Health Protection Agency (HPA).

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 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.

The popularity of the jab dropped after it was wrongly linked to autism and bowel disease in the 1990s.

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

In Wales, health chiefs say there are already over 500 new cases and there are fears numbers could further increase in Greater Manchester.

They are urging families to get their children vaccinated – and asking parents to be on the look-out for symptoms. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness - and it can prove deadly.

Children, students and pregnant women are most vulnerable, although it can affect anyone.

It is passed from human to human and is usually spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The early signs include fever, a cough, sore eyes and a red rash.

Complications are quite common even in healthy people, and can include ear infections, vomiting and diarrhoea, pneumonia, meningitis and serious eye disorders.

A HPA spokesman added: “People need to be vaccinated. MMR uptake rates are now at an all-time high and we are seeing comparatively few cases in children aged between 40 months and five years.

“We’re seeing numerous cases in older children, teenagers and adults and in babies below the age for vaccination.”