Measles in the North West

Posted by: owen - Posted on:

Local health organisations are warning people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date and be alert for measles after we are now starting to see clusters of confirmed measles cases in the region.

Data published today by the UK Health Security Agency shows 24 cases of measles have been reported in the North West between 1 October 2023 and 13 February 2024. This is an increase of 14 cases on data published last week. The majority of cases are in Greater Manchester.  

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is working with partners in local authority public health teams and the NHS to monitor the situation, provide advice and support local communities to be aware of action they can take to protect themselves, including getting vaccinated.

Dr Matthieu Pegorie, Consultant in Health Protection for UKHSA North West, said: “Measles can be a serious infection that can lead to complications especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“MMR vaccine coverage has been falling for the last decade with 1 out of 10 children starting school in England not protected and so there is a real risk that this outbreak could spread more widely across the North West.

“Parents should be aware that measles is a nasty illness for most children and sadly, for some, can be very serious and life changing, but it is completely preventable. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your children. I strongly urge parents to take up the offer as soon as possible and protect their child now.

“It is also important to be aware of what symptoms to look out for, as the measles virus is highly infectious.’

Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, Regional Director of Commissioning at NHS England in the North West said: “The MMR vaccine is the best way we can protect children from measles, which is highly contagious and can be very dangerous in some cases.

“Last week, thousands of North West school-aged children, who are yet to have one or both of the MMR vaccines, started to receive invitations from the NHS to book a catch-up appointment.

“The recent increase in cases is worrying, but measles is a preventable disease, and two doses of the vaccine is enough to give lifelong protection from measles, mumps and rubella, so please take up the offer of vaccination if your child has yet to have one, or both of the vaccines.”

Dr Helen Wall, Clinical Director for Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester, said: “Ensuring yourself and your child are fully vaccinated against measles is really important. It not only protects you and your family against the illness, but it also protects those who you come into contact with who may be vulnerable – such as babies, toddlers and the elderly.

‘Since the introduction of the first measles vaccine in 1968 into the routine childhood immunisation programme it is estimated that more than 20 million cases and 4,500 deaths have been averted in the UK. Unfortunately, following a decade long trend of a fall in childhood vaccine uptake we are now seeing a resurgence of measles.”

“It is also important to be aware of what symptoms to look out for as the measles virus is highly infectious.”

Symptoms of measles appear 7-10 days after contact with the virus and include:

  • cold-like symptoms such as runny or blocked nose, sneezing and cough
  • red, sore, watery eyes
  • high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40OC / 104OF
  • a non-itchy, red-brown rash usually appears 3-5 days later (sometimes starts around the ears before spreading to rest of the body), spots may be raised and join to form blotchy patches – which may be harder to see on darker skin tones
  • small white spots may appear inside cheeks and the back of lips (for a few days)

View more information about the symptoms.

Measles spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools. People in certain groups, including babies, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles.

If you or a family member develops any symptoms of measles contact your GP by phone. Do not go to your GP, walk-in centre or any other healthcare setting without calling ahead, as measles is very infectious.

Non-urgent advice: Please Note

We are contacting eligible patients to book their outstanding MMR vaccine, alternatively you can phone our reception to check your immunisation records