Health officials are struggling to stem an alarming tide of measles across England amid “worryingly low” take-up of the MMR vaccine.
Cases have soared to a 10-year high, driven by a growing crisis in the West Midlands epicenter.
But bosses at the UK Health Security Agency revealed today that they are “now starting to see clusters of cases in other regions”.
Only half of children have received both doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in some parts of London.
Similarly low levels are also seen in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
UKHSA surveillance figures show a further 56 cases were confirmed in England last week, matching levels seen in the previous fortnight. The total since the current crisis broke out in October exceeds 500, raising fears that attempts to contain the “national incident” are not working.
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While the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, accounted for more than half of measles cases in the last month, officials noted that rates have stabilised. Twelve per cent of cases were recorded in London, one in ten in the North West and a similar proportion in Yorkshire and The Humber. Parents have been urged to check that their children have received both doses of the vaccine.
Cold-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, and runny or stuffy nose, are often the first sign of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and on the back of their lips. The telltale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body.
UKHSA surveillance figures show a further 56 cases were confirmed in England last week, matching levels seen in the previous fortnight.
The total since the current crisis broke out in October exceeds 500, raising fears that attempts to contain the “national incident” are not working.
While the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, accounted for more than half of measles cases in the last month, officials noted that rates have stabilised.
Twelve per cent of cases were recorded in London, one in ten in the North West and a similar proportion in Yorkshire and The Humber.
PennsylvaniaRenters have been urged to check that their children have received both doses of the vaccine.
Without both MMR shots, experts warn they risk becoming seriously ill from the extremely contagious virus and passing it on to others.
Measles, which produces flu-like symptoms as well as a telltale rash, can cause very serious and even fatal health complications if it spreads to the lungs or brain.
According to estimates, one in five children who become infected will be hospitalized and one in 15 will develop serious complications such as meningitis or sepsis.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “As expected, due to the worrying low uptake of the MMR vaccine in some areas of the country, we are now starting to see clusters of cases in other regions.
‘Although parents are taking up the offer of the MMR vaccine for their children, there are still hundreds of thousands of children who remain unprotected and are therefore at risk of serious complications or lifelong disability.
‘But measles can be completely prevented with vaccination. I strongly urge parents to take up the offer of the MMR vaccine now to ensure their children are protected.’
Two doses of the MMR vaccine offer up to 99 percent protection against the trio of diseases, which can cause meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.
At least 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks, according to public health guidelines.
But nationally, the proportion of five-year-olds receiving the full jab has fallen to 84.5 per cent, the lowest in more than a decade.
The latest on NHS Digital also shows that up to four in ten children in some parts of England have not had both MMR vaccines by the time they turn five.
Only 56.3 per cent of young people that age in Hackney, east London, were fully protected against measles, mumps and rubella in 2022/23.
After Hackney came Camden (63.6 per cent) and Enfield (64.8 per cent).
Outside London, the lowest absorption rates of both doses among five-year-olds were recorded in Liverpool (73.6 per cent), Manchester (74.5 per cent) and Birmingham (75.1 per cent).
In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 percent of two-year-olds received both doses, up from 89 percent the year before.
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Acceptance of the MMR vaccine collapsed in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the wake of a 1998 study by now-discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield that falsely linked the vaccines to autism.
NHS bosses last month launched a vaccine catch-up programme, with 3.4 million children under 16 feared to be unprotected.
Invitations have also been sent to people aged up to 25 in parts of the Midlands, Greater Manchester and London who have not received both doses of MMR.
It comes as England’s top doctor today warned that the pressure on NHS hospitals this winter is “not easing”.
New weekly figures published today show that there were three times as many flu patients in hospital each day last week (2,390) as in the same week last year (737).
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “It is clear that the significant pressure the NHS has been under this winter continues unabated, with thousands of beds more occupied and three times more flu patients than last year. , plus continued high demand for ambulance and NHS 111 services.’
Dr Tim Cooksley, immediate past president of the Society of Intensive Care Medicine, also warned that the pressures facing hospitals show that “the NHS is in an eternal winter”.
He added: “System-wide pressures are perfectly and grimly illustrated in urgent and emergency care, where patients experience appalling conditions and long waits.”