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Liverpool measles outbreak biggest since vaccine introduced

by Lauren Riley. Published Mon 26 Mar 2012 15:34

A measles outbreak in Merseyside has been declared the largest in the North West since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988.

There have been over one hundred laboratory confirmed cases of the disease in Merseyside with a further 43 probable cases under review, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said.

Most cases involved children who had not been vaccinated and babies and toddlers too young to receive a vaccine.

The HPA also warned that teenagers and young adults who were not vaccinated in their youth were at risk of catching the disease.

A total of 28 people needed hospital inpatient treatment and three of these, two adults and a child, were described as "extremely ill" but have recovered and returned home.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, a specialist with the HPA's Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit, warned parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated.

He said: "Measles is highly infectious and anyone who has not previously been vaccinated is at risk when it gets into a community, as it has done here.

"In this outbreak we have seen measles spreading amongst unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults and affecting infants and toddlers who are too young to be vaccinated.

"Our advice to teenagers and young adults is to arrange vaccination now. Speak to your family doctor. It's not too late.

"Our advice to parents is, arrange to have your children vaccinated regardless of their ages.

"If you are not sure if they have been immunised in the past, check with your family doctor."

Two doses of the MMR vaccine will give protection against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.

Dr Vivancos added: "These can be serious illnesses with the potential for side effects that can include pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis and, on very rare occasions, people die from measles.

"We've seen in this outbreak that 28 people need treatment in hospital and some of these very seriously ill.

"Fortunately these patients have made a full recovery, but no one should take the risk when a safe and effective vaccine is available."

In the outbreak, 29 of the confirmed cases were in teenagers over the age of 15, and 27 cases came in children under 13 months who were too young to be vaccinated.

Most of the remaining cases were in unvaccinated children aged between 13 months and five years.

Councillor Roz Gladden, Liverpool City Council's cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: "It's really encouraging that the vast majority of Liverpool parents are choosing to protect their children with MMR vaccination.

"Currently nearly nine out of 10 children have had both doses of MMR vaccine before their fifth birthday.

"However, this outbreak is a timely reminder not to be complacent.

"We need to remember that measles can be a very dangerous illness and it's important for anyone whose child isn't protected to get in touch with their GP practice to arrange a vaccination as soon as possible."


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