London at risk of tens of thousands of measles cases warns UKHSA

Measles: We have forgotten how dangerous it is says expert

Data published on Friday, July 14, 2023, shows there has been a steady rise in measles cases this year.

A new risk assessment also revealed the potential for a measles resurgence, particularly in London.

Between January 1 and June 30 this year there have been 128 cases of measles, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022, with 66 per cent of the cases detected in London, although cases have been seen in all regions.

The UKHSA assessment found the risk of a measles epidemic across the UK is considered low. But, with lower current levels of coverage in London, a measles outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in the capital.

The assessment also concludes there is a high risk of cases linked to overseas travel leading to outbreaks in specific population groups such as young people and under-vaccinated communities.

READ MORE Doctor issues warning as cases of measles on rise – symptoms to spot

The risk in London is primarily due to low vaccination rates over several years, further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some London boroughs, the coverage of the first MMR dose – given to children at two years old – is as low as 69.5 percent.

The UKHSA are urging parents to check their children are fully vaccinated with two MMR doses, which gives 99 percent life-long protection against measles.

Parents can check with their GP practice to find out if their children are up-to-date with the vaccination – as well as themselves.

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Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA Consultant Epidemiologist said: “Measles can be a serious infection that can lead to complications especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“Due to longstanding sub-optimal vaccine uptake there is now a very real risk of seeing big outbreaks in London.”

Dr Saliba added: “Measles spreads very easily but is preventable. To help protect ourselves, our families and those around us it is vital we all ensure we are vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine, free on the NHS whatever your age.

“It’s important everyone is fully vaccinated before travelling overseas this summer.”

Jane Clegg, Regional Chief Nurse for the NHS in London said: “Measles can easily spread between unvaccinated people and can be serious.

“GPs [are] calling over 10,000 parents of unvaccinated children, and hundreds [are] booking appointments to get vaccinated as a result.”

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later, advises the NHS. Some people may also get small spots their mouth.

The health body adds it’s very unlikely to be measles if you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine or you’ve had measles before.

But you should ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you think you or your child may have measles
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’ve not had measles before or you’ve not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’re pregnant – measles can be serious in pregnancy
  • you have a weakened immune system and think you have measles or have been in close contact with someone with measles

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