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07-02-2013 | Article

Measles cases at 18-year high


Health Protection Agency

Cases of measles are at the highest level in 18 years, the Health Protection Agency has warned.

Figures for 2012 released today show that there were 2,016 confirmed cases in England and Wales, the highest annual total since 1994.

HPA head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said older children who were not vaccinated at the usual age are at particular risk of being exposed, for example at school.

"Parents of unvaccinated children, as well as older teenagers and adults who may have missed MMR vaccination should make an appointment with their GP to get vaccinated," she urged.

According to the HPA, cases during 2012 were associated with the prolonged outbreaks in Merseyside and Surrey and Sussex, as well as smaller ones in travelling communities.

The greatest number of monthly cases was 285 recorded in May, but after dipping to 137 in August numbers rose again, reaching 224 in November and 240 in December.

"Coverage of MMR is now at historically high levels but measles is highly infectious and can spread easily among communities that are poorly vaccinated, and can affect anyone who is susceptible, including toddlers in whom vaccination has been delayed," said Dr Ramsay.

She noted that measles is circulating in several European countries popular with holidaymakers. The UK, France, Italy, Spain and Romania accounted for 87% of the total of 7,392 cases reported in European Union countries up to the end of November.

Medical News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter