|Local residents urged to act now
Residents of Wigan Borough are being urged to protect themselves against measles, mumps and rubella as figures show a dramatic rise in the number of measles cases in the borough.
Between January and April, there were 80 cases of measles across Wigan Borough. That compares to a total of 38 cases for the whole of 2012. This increase is consistent with a national trend that’s seen the number of measles cases growing.
To prevent further outbreaks, Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health have announced a national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers. The aim of the programme is to prevent measles outbreaks by vaccinating as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds as possible in time for the next school year.
Around 1,000 (6.1%) of high school pupils in Wigan Borough have never had a MMR vaccine and a further 1,000 have only had one dose of the vaccine. As part of the catch-up programme, Public Health Wigan will be holding immunisation sessions at local high schools.
Wigan Council’s public health consultant Dr Paul Turner said: “The number of cases of measles continues to grow within Wigan Borough. The best protection is provided by two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
“The first dose is usually given to a child at 13 months and the second (pre-school) dose is given after three years and four months. Measles is highly infectious and children who have never received MMR immunisation are at high risk of catching it. Those who do catch measles have a one in four chance of being admitted to hospital, a one in six chance of developing a complication, and a one in 500 chance of dying. It is an extremely serious infection.
“If parents have children who have not received the MMR vaccine as part of their routine immunisations then we recommend they contact their general practice to arrange immunisation as soon as possible. One dose of MMR vaccine provides around 90 per cent protection against measles and, therefore, reduces the risk considerably. A second dose can be given four weeks after the first to provide full protection.
“If parents have school age children who have received their first MMR dose but not their second then their risk is much less. However, we do recommend these children receive a second dose to ensure they are fully protected. Again this can be arranged with their general practice.
“Young adults may also be at risk of catching measles if they have never received a measles vaccine or have never had measles. We recommend all young women considering starting a family ensure they are protected against measles before they get pregnant. The MMR vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is exposed to someone with measles and is unsure whether they are protected then they should contact their midwife or GP immediately. They should be able to check their immunity either by taking a blood sample or arranging the testing of their ‘booking bloods’ if they have been already taken. The result will determine whether further action is needed.
“I cannot emphasise enough that measles is potentially a very dangerous infection.”
For more information, please visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles