Measles outbreak in Morecambe and Heysham

40 cases of measles have been confirmed in Morecambe and Heysham.
40 cases of measles have been confirmed in Morecambe and Heysham.
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Around 40 cases of measles have been confirmed in Morecambe and Heysham.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and local NHS services said there is an ongoing outbreak of the disease in the Morecambe Bay area.

The cases are mainly in unvaccinated schoolchildren and parents are being urged to ensure that their children, including teenage children, are protected by two doses of MMR vaccine.

Dr Steven Gee, director of the HPA’s Cumbria and Lancashire Health Protection Unit, said: “We’re seeing a lot of measles in Lancashire at the moment and the towns of Heysham and Morecambe are particularly badly affected.

“Measles is very infectious and children, teenagers and young adults who were not appropriately vaccinated at the right time are at risk and, furthermore, if they become ill with measles they can pose a serious health threat to any babies and toddlers they may come into contact with and to

other individuals who are vulnerable to disease.

“Measles can be a serious illness and no one should treat it lightly.

“In one major outbreak elsewhere in the north west there have been more than 500 cases and one third of these patients needed treatment in hospital. “A number were very ill indeed needing intensive care. Thankfully there have been no deaths.

“The best protection against measles is MMR vaccination. MMR is a safe and effective vaccine and two doses give lifelong protection in almost all cases.

“It’s one of the best gifts that any parent can give to a child.”

When the normal vaccination schedule is followed, children are given a first dose of MMR when they are 13 months old and a second dose at 40 months. However, the vaccine can be given at any age and the parents of older children and teenagers should realise that it is not too late.

Young adults who missed out on MMR vaccine at the appropriate time can also still be immunised.

Parents who are not sure about a child’s vaccination status, or indeed older teenagers and young adults who don’t know if they were vaccinated as a children, should ask the family doctor.

The Health Protection Agency strongly advises people with measles to avoid contact with others, especially pregnant women and infants.

Parents should keep children out of nursery and away from school until at least four days have elapsed after the onset of the rash.

Likewise, adults with measles should stay off work and avoid social functions and gatherings until they too are free of infection.

Finally, people with measles should telephone their GP surgery, NHS walk-in centre or hospital A&E unit before attending so that arrangements can be made in advance for minimising their contact with other patients who may be vulnerable to complications of measles.

Information on measles is available on the following websites: http://immunisation.dh.gov.uk/ or http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Measles/